In addition to being “Spooky Season,” we mustn’t forget that October is also Breast Cancer Awareness month. The fight against breast cancer is still ongoing all around the world, and research is ongoing every day to find new treatments and, hopefully, a cure for this illness. Around 288,000 new cases of breast cancer will be diagnosed by the end of 2022, according to the American Cancer Society. Sadly, in 2022, around 43,250 women will, unfortunately, die from this life-threatening disease.
Around one in eight women will develop breast cancer in her lifetime, underscoring the importance of getting regular mammograms to stay ahead of the disease. Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us to think about the people we love. Luckily, there are legal tools to help us do just that.
Estate Planning and Illness
Estate planning is very important, especially if you have a chronic or acute illness. Estate planning allows you to protect your assets and transfer them to designated heirs after you die. But, that aspect is just one small part of this expansive legal field. There are also useful tools and documents that can help you if you are incapacitated and/or sick. Here are three main ones below, but this list is far from extensive.
Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a trusted individual (whether part of your family or not) who you appoint to manage your financial and/or healthcare affairs in the event that you become too incapacitated to do so yourself. Your power of attorney will make key decisions relating to your healthcare, and they will communicate with doctors, nurses, banks, and whoever else in order to keep your affairs in order.
Some traits of a good power of attorney include:
- Understanding. Your power of attorney should understand what their duties are and how to execute them. He or she should know when to ask for help when necessary. You want a PoA who knows what they don’t know.
- Communicative. You want a power of attorney who can communicate and collaborate constructively and effectively with lawyers, accountants, medical staff, and others. If your “trusted individual” is notoriously belligerent or hard to deal with, they won’t be the best choice.
- Trustworthy. You’re entrusting this person with major life decisions. You want to know that they have your best interests at heart at all times.
- Logistics. You’ll want a power of attorney who lives nearby or, at least, who is able to be a constructive presence when needed.
Much like a power of attorney, your healthcare directive comes into effect when you are too incapacitated to voice your own wishes yourself. That said, this directive is its own document, far separate from a PoA document. The directive outlines your wishes to doctors and nurses when you’re not able to tell them these on your own. Examples of wishes can include Do-Not-Resuscitate instructions, religious views, and other personal, important orders.
If you have minor kids, you do not want to forget to include guardianship papers in your estate plan. If you die, who will take over your parenting duties? Your proposed guardian should, first of all, be on-board with their appointment. They should be someone you trust, who can take care of your kids’ day to day needs and nurture them.
The Main Goals
The main goals of estate planning include minimizing expenses legally, distributing assets responsibly, and maintaining control while living. It is this third goal to which this article references: the ability to keep as much control as you can over your life, even if ill.
Though we never want to think of the worst-case scenario, Breast Cancer Awareness Month reminds us that we have to keep our estate plans in place in order to ensure that, in the event of illness, our loved ones are protected. Contact an estate-planning attorney today to help you set up your plan.