October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month! Bringing attention to this disease is crucial, as it affects millions of women. One in eight women will develop an invasive form of breast cancer at some point in their lives, and a smaller percentage (though still significant) will experience non-invasive breast cancer. This disease affects not just women, but men as well, and the families and friends of those suffering. One of the most important things to do during such a tough time is to keep stress low and focus on your health.

A way to do that is to plan for the future. Psychological research indicates that when you’re stressed or anxious, planning is more difficult. The ability to plan things out is disrupted by the parts of your brain experiencing the stress. The future can seem daunting. However, there is a way to put things in motion now that will greatly ease your mind: estate planning. 

Protecting Your Family 

In order to protect your family, you will want to keep them out of probate court. Your kids and grandkids will not want to go through the experience of probate court, which is time consuming and stressful. Probate court is the process by which a judge divides up your assets after you pass away, focusing first on repaying your creditors and then giving what’s left to your loved ones. Rarely does probate actually divide things up the exact way you would have wanted. In order to protect your family from this arduous process, estate planning tools such as a living trust (a three-party relationship where you transfer title to a trustee who holds it for your beneficiary) and others are available. 

Thinking About Your Kids 

If you have kids, you should definitely consider arranging a guardianship plan for them, just in case. Everyone should have this, whether they’re sick or healthy, as it never hurts to be prepared. Guardianship papers designate a guardian for your kids in the event you are unable to care for them. Choose a guardian for your kids who you feel will take care of their physical and emotional needs while providing a structured day-to-day lifestyle. This intensely personal decision is totally up to you, and you should, of course, think it through carefully and talk to your proposed guardian before executing the papers. 

Power of Attorney Considerations 

A power of attorney is an individual that you trust to make financial or healthcare decisions for you in the event that you cannot make them yourself. This person ensures that your wishes are carried out, and he or she makes sure you’re treated well and not taken advantage of. The power of attorney for finances takes care of your financial decisions while you’re incapacitated, whether it’s deciding what to do with your house, how to pay for medical care, how to pay for your kids’ school, or anything else. The power of attorney for healthcare is also a decision-maker, just with regards to medical decisions. 

Healthcare Directives 

Healthcare directives allow you to tell the hospital what you want ahead of time. You can lay out your specific wishes for doctors and nurses to follow. That way, you get the medical care you need even when you’re unable to communicate. These directives are something you can make while you’re with it and feeling well, which means that they will reflect major decisions that are made when completely aware. 

With estate planning, there are a lot of tools that will help you prepare for the future and whatever it might entail. You don’t have to feel anxious and nervous about where your assets will go if something happens, and this is a good, productive way to ease the stress that you’re carrying so that you can focus on your health.