February is Heart Health and Stroke Month, raising awareness of the problems that many Americans face when it comes to cardiovascular health. The statistics certainly seem to suggest that there is a problem. According to the CDC, one in four deaths in America are caused by heart disease. That is 610,000 people. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women, with coronary heart disease being most common. The idea behind this month is to discuss healthy eating and exercise habits that will reduce your risks of contracting these illnesses. 

Unfortunately, with the commonality of heart disease, it is all-too-realistic that there may be a chance of heart-related illness affecting your family. When that happens, you need to be prepared for anything. Here is how estate planning can help: 

Healthcare Directives 

While there are many different possible ailments that come along with heart disease, there is a strong likelihood that you might be too incapacitated to make your own decisions. That is definitely true when it comes to a stroke. During a stroke, oxygen to your brain is cut off, and the among the first parts to lose their functioning is memory. That’s especially a problem if you have certain wishes for your healthcare that you formulated when you were not sick. 

A healthcare directive is a set of instructions for your hospital, doctor, nurse, etc. to use when they are deciding what care to give you. The directive ensures that your wishes will be respected. Developing one when you are healthy will protect you when you are sick. 

Powers of Attorney 

Your powers of attorney for finance and healthcare also come into play when you are incapacitated. They make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf when you are too sick to make them yourself. These positions come with a lot of responsibility. When selecting your POAs, you want to make sure that you choose someone who can be logical, level-headed, and respectful of your wishes. Discuss with your proposed powers of attorney your decision to appoint them to that position. Make sure they are on board before you nominate them. 

Asset Protection 

Unfortunately, as seen in the statistics above, heart disease is deadly. There’s no way around it—it can be a disease that ends lives. If you’re concerned about yourself or a loved one, make sure you or your loved one have a plan in place to protect assets in the even that this happens. Ensuring the smooth transfer of property through a living trust or a similar document will allow your affairs to wrap up easily. It’s not exactly a spirit-lifting topic, but it is an important one if you want to be prepared for anything. 

Avoiding Probate Court 

Probate court is a lengthy, arduous process. If you die without a will (or even with a will), your family will end up there. By putting in place a living trust, you can get out of probate court. Your assets will be divided in a way that best benefits you and your family. Otherwise, they will most likely be liquidated to pay off your creditors first. Then, your family will get what’s left. That’s not the asset plan you or your family deserves. 

You can never be too sure that there won’t be an illness striking your family. Though that’s not exactly a topic any of us want to think about, it is one that happens. The above tools and resources are useful for preventing and protecting against asset loss or diminishment as a result of illness. Consult an estate planner today.