Breast Cancer Awareness Month happens every October, and it’s a time to reflect on taking care of you and your loved ones. One in eight women will be diagnosed with invasive breast cancer over their lifetime, so this is a problem that affects everyone.
Early screenings, regular mammograms, and vigilance can help reduce the chances of breast cancer having severe or even fatal effects. To learn more about Breast Cancer Awareness Month and what it means for you and your family, visit www.breastcancer.org.
As far as estate planning goes, breast cancer has an impact on how you should think about your estate plan, especially if the ailment runs in your family.
Illness and Estate Planning
When you’re thinking about your estate plan, you should think about major life events and if you’re prepared for them. While some of those events, such as the birth of a new baby or a wedding, are cause for celebration, others, like illness and death, are not. In this article, we’ll discuss some important estate planning tools for illness. These tools will help you protect your assets and dignity in the event of the worst-case scenario.
If you’ve ever been involved the medical field at all, either as a patient, worker, or both, you’ve probably heard the word “HIPAA.” HIPAA refers to the Health Insurance Portability & Accountability Act. It was drafted in 1996, and it imparted stringent requirements for the confidentiality of your healthcare information.
A HIPAA release authorizes someone you designate to access your health information. This is essential if that person is going to be interacting with medical providers on your behalf. The authorization for this release will have to be, of course, voluntary and in writing.
A living will is a legal document that acts as a statement of your direct wishes as they pertain to your healthcare. Religious views are a common reason someone would choose a living will. A living will addresses specifications for your care—dos and don’ts—and what you do and do not consent to.
Health Care Proxy
Another healthcare-related document that you often find in estate plans is a proxy. This medical power of attorney designates someone you trust to make medical decisions on your behalf, should you become too incapacitated to do so. Agents have the power to direct your medical care if need be, and they can also be named as your guardian, if a guardian proceeding were to ever occur.
POLST stands for a “Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment.” This document, which your healthcare provider will help you complete, is part of your medical records. It is accessible to your doctors whenever they need it, and it refers to end-of-life medical decisions. This means that it isn’t as broad as a living will or healthcare proxy. A POLST is useful to those who don’t have family to name or want more assurance that their end-of-life wishes will be honored.
Power of Attorney (Financial)
Much like a medical power of attorney, a financial power of attorney is a person you designate to handle your financial, legal, and tax matters if you’re unable to do so. Every adult should have this basic document, but it becomes even more important for people who are living with an illness.
A key question for those suffering from illness is how much control they should give up at the time versus later on, if things worsen. A financial power of attorney can be adjusted, if you feel that your condition merits less (or more) control to be handed over.
Though this list is not exhaustive, it is a way for you to see that, when it comes to illness, taking care of your loved ones requires vigilance and hard work. Contact an estate planning attorney to learn more about ways you can legally prepare in the event of an illness like breast cancer.