Tips for When End-of-Life Planning Becomes Closer Than You Thought

It happens when you least expect it: a devastating medical diagnosis that leaves you shocked, scared, and wondering what to do next. We have a few tips to make the process easier on you and your loved ones.

At first it might be difficult to handle and process the news, but don't be afraid to reach out for help. Your family may also struggle with the diagnosis, which could be another reason to seek help. There are many paths you can take for guidance and help, such as a mental health professional, a social worker, an RN with expertise in the area, and support groups.

After working through the initial shock and aftermath of an overwhelming diagnosis, it's time to start getting your financial information in one place. Start with a binder to which you can easily add information; having all your information in one place will be easier on those who will need to know later. In the binder include detailed liabilities (mortgage, loans, credit card debt); insurance policies for health, home, and any vehicles; and a list of personal service agreements. Also include a contact list of personal advisers such as your lawyer, accountant, insurance agent, and financial adviser. You should write down all-important passwords and include the previous year's income tax return. You may also want to include arrangements for pets and a list of personal contacts who you want to be contacted in case of an emergency.  Finally, the binder should include any estate planning documents that you have.

A good alternative to a notebook binder is a series of file folders in a filing cabinet.  Whatever system you use, be sure to inform the people who you want to be in charge of your affairs about where to find your binder or filing cabinet.

If you don't have estate planning documents, don't procrastinate getting your estate in order.  Making end-of-life decisions is NOT something that should be put off until "the eleventh hour."  If you have estate planning documents that were prepared many years ago, you should contact a lawyer experienced in estate planning to make sure that the laws have not changed and that your documents will still work the way you intend.  In addition, if you had your estate planning documents prepared in a state other than Ohio, be sure to have your documents reviewed by an estate planning attorney in Ohio.  Probate and trust laws can vary from one state to another, so don’t assume that estate planning documents prepared in one state are sufficient for a different state.  As always, if you need help with any of the issues outlined above, please give us a call.