Five words no one ever wants to hear from their doctor: “Get your affairs in…
If you’ve just learned that you need to undergo major surgery, you have a lot on your mind. You may be feeling sick and you’re probably scared. You may also be anxious about navigating health insurance and anticipated medical bills, being absent from work, making childcare arrangements, planning for household responsibilities, and arranging care during your recovery. You may also be worried about reviewing your estate plan in case there are complications during your surgery. The following tips can help you ensure that your personal affairs are in order so that you can shift your focus to the other things on your list and getting healthy.
Who should you call?
After notifying loved ones of your upcoming major surgery, consider calling your attorney to verify that your estate planning documents are up-to-date and accurately reflect your current wishes and goals. In addition, to confirm that your nominated decision-makers are still good choices and the heirs of your estate reflect your wishes, you will also want to confirm that your assets align with your estate plan. If you have a trust, is it properly funded? If you have life insurance policies and retirement accounts, are the appropriate beneficiaries named? If you not yet had the chance to create your will or trust, many estate planning attorneys have processes in place that allow them to quickly help you in the event of an emergency.
It is also important to contact the agent named in your Health Care Power of Attorney to notify them of your surgery and discuss any changes to your wishes regarding health care decisions. If you do not have a Health Care Power of Attorney, now is the time to make sure that one is executed. Most estate planning attorneys can also help you complete this document on short notice.
What should you do?
We recommend that you should attempt to have the following documents in place:
- Advance Health Care Directive (also called a Living Will)
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Durable Financial Power of Attorney
- HIPAA Authorization Form (allowing the release of your medical records to other persons)
- Guardianship Nomination (if you have minor children)
- Last Will and Testament
- Revocable Living Trust (if this is appropriate for your circumstances)
- Documentation of your financial accounts and assets
- Document of where you keep your important documents
Short on time?
If you are extremely short on time, you may want to focus your attention on identifying the key people you trust to serve on your behalf in the event you are unable, including a Health Care Power of Attorney and Durable Financial Power of Attorney, and clearly communicating your wishes so there is no confusion about what you would have wanted.
If you have minor children, establishing a legal guardian is essential and can be done through your Last Will and Testament or separate guardianship nomination form. Keep in mind that while a simple will can be drafted quickly, states have varying requirements for the execution of wills that need to be taken into consideration to ensure that your will is valid.
Start compiling a list of your assets, their locations, and any identifying information that will help your loved ones locate your assets if necessary. You can also make sure that your attorney has copies of your documents and information. Consider providing your attorney’s contact information to your loved ones so they can advise them as needed.
Whether it is a major surgery or medical emergencies, it is a challenging time – physically, mentally, and emotionally. Take control where you can by having your estate planning documents in order. Littleton Legal is here to help you have peace of mind that your wishes are documented, your decision-makers are nominated, and your family will have legal guidance if needed.