Estate Planning Essentials: What to Do After a Negative Medical Report

One doctor’s appointment can change your life. It happens every day to people, young and old. A routine checkup can lead to a medical diagnosis that cuts the years you had left to months or even weeks. While the thought alone is overwhelming, the risk is all too real. 

If you find yourself in this heartbreaking situation, it’s vital to get your affairs in order quickly. Here are some steps to ensure your affairs are in order. 

Record a Video Expressing Your Wishes

Your legal documents can share your wishes (with tons of legalese). However, words written on paper aren’t quite the same as what you can say.  If you know you have limited time left, recording a video highlighting your desires can be valuable. Just ensure it's in addition to your legal documents. 

Rick Nott, Senior Wealth Advisor at LourdMurray, says, “There is one thing that cannot be passed on legally…your values. These methods are not legally valid but invaluable to ensure that your legacy can be passed on to your family. Have frequent conversations. Now is not the time for secrets.”

Consult an Attorney

You should always consult an attorney when estate planning. Some people do it without one. While this is possible, seeking legal advice is your best bet. “Seasoned estate planners are not strangers to emergencies and even having to get things done while someone is hospitalized,” states Jack Hales, estate planning and probate attorney. Hales continues, “depending on how imminent a concern is, an attorney can advise you on short-term and long-term solutions.”

You might think you need more assets, or your wishes are simple. That could be true. However, it doesn’t change the fact that having legal advice will likely lead to a better outcome. If you pass without your affairs in order, your loved ones will probably have to face a lengthy probate court process. It can take a few months to several years to settle a case depending on the complexity of the estate. 

One common concern is whether legal advice is affordable. You'll find that prices range. Some attorneys will draft a will for as little as $150, and others charge $350/hr or more based on experience, according to The best thing you can do is speak to several attorneys and compare rates to find one that fits your budget. 

Try Online Estate Planning Tools

You may DIY your estate planning because you lack time or money. Either way, quality options are available. You can use online estate planning tools at a fraction of the price you’d pay to work with an attorney.

“Options include LegalZoom or Trust & Will. I would stress, however, that these wills would still need to be filed with probate. At the very least, ensure a trusted executor is chosen to handle the will once you create it,” says Derek Jacques, Estate Planning Attorney. 

Prepare These Parts of Your Estate Plan

You want to cover all your bases as you get your affairs in order. You want to prepare four components while completing your estate planning process. 

Wills, Trusts, & Guardianship 

These documents will ensure your wishes are carried out as you desire them. Losing you will already be challenging for your loved ones. The last thing you want them to do is engage in a lengthy battle over your assets. Doing the work for them in advance will allow them the time and space they need to grieve. 

Advanced Healthcare Directive 

When you cannot make medical decisions, you need someone to step in and make these decisions on your behalf. With an advanced medical directive, you’ll still maintain some control over your care even when you cannot make decisions. You can outline your desires related to medical care, including life support, blood transfusions, and more.

Financial Power of Attorney

You’ll also want to designate a financial power of attorney.  This person will manage your finances when you can no longer. Without one, it’ll be challenging for your loved ones to access your money to manage your affairs.  They’ll have to take on the financial burden of self-funding your needs. Also, it'll be a lengthy battle through the courts if they want to be able to use your funds eventually. 

Retirement Accounts

Left untouched, the balances of your retirement accounts can be left up to probate court to determine where they go. This can be a lengthy and overwhelming process for your loved ones. Instead, list the beneficiaries for your retirement accounts. You can do this online or by calling the company that manages your 401K, self-directed IRA, or another retirement account.

This post was produced and syndicated by Wealth of Geeks.

Quiana Darden is a freelance writer specializing in parenting, finance, wellness, education and recent events. She currently lives in Virginia with her fiancé, daughter and their four-legged furry son.