Nothing sounds more heartbreaking than to receive a terminal diagnosis. Within minutes, your world has turned upside down. It’s perfectly normal to want to withdraw, isolate, or experience depression and anxiety at this stage.
However, you can also use this time to leave your loved ones without worries. Consider discussing these topics:
1. Living Will
One of the critical topics to think about is a health directive. How do you want to be treated when you’re severely sick to make decisions on your own?
Most experts advise drafting a living will or advance directive. These two terms are interchangeable and refer to a legal document that tells the doctor and family members what kind of care you would want if you were terminally ill, had lost your mental capacity through delirium, coma, etc., and could no longer communicate.
The living will or directive can cover many issues. For example, what type of comfort do you like? You may not want any medical equipment such as an oxygen mask and heart monitor for comfort measures only treatment.
For some people, it can be very difficult to hear their body slowly shutting down, and this can cause great discomfort emotionally and physically. If breathing tubes bother you, tell your doctor before it’s too late so they know you would like them to go with comfort measures only.
Meanwhile, at some point, you might want to think about hospice care and what that means for you and your family. There are several different types of hospice programs. Check into them all and see which one works best for your family’s beliefs and values.
Next, talk with your doctor about organ donation. If you don’t sign up for organ donation at the DMV, you will be asked if you want to donate your organs when they do your death certificate.
Finally, discuss a DNR (do not resuscitate) order with your doctor. If this is checked off, then CPR will not be attempted even though everything else has been done to try to save your life after cardiac or respiratory arrest.
2. Probate and Wills
If you have considerable assets and have a large family, consider getting a will. Without a will, state law will determine how your property is divided, and those who you might want to support the most may not be taken care of.
You can also consider a living trust, which is a legal document that allows you to transfer assets from your name to the name of the trust while you are still alive. This can help alleviate some of the problems with inheriting assets from a terminally ill person, such as probate.
When creating your will and trust, appoint someone as your power of attorney (POA) if you don’t already have one or more people that can make these decisions on your behalf.
You might also need a lawyer who specializes in estate planning and probate proceedings at this point if you have not already done so. A lawyer can talk about any changes in tax laws, offer advice on how best to save money, and include all your family’s wishes in written documents to avoid any fighting later.
3. Financial Accounts and Insurance Policies
If you don’t want to leave your loved ones saddled with debts or confused with their finances, sort out your money while you still can.
Start by getting a copy of your credit report and find out if there are any errors on it. Also, check all your financial accounts such as bank accounts and insurance policies. Paying bills regularly will ensure that everything is current before you pass away and give those left behind some peace of mind.
If you have a business, create a succession plan. You might want to consider selling it, but you can also ensure that the business lives on by making arrangements for a successor. If you don’t want to appoint anyone, develop an exit strategy like selling your shares or merging your business with another.
Another vital topic to keep in mind is taxation, particularly estate tax. Depending on the size or value of the asset, your bereaved family might have to pay federal or state estate tax. Fortunately, you can take advantage of an exemption. Unless your assets are worth over $11 million, you might not need to set aside money for taxes.
Being given a death knell is tormenting, but what makes it worse is the worry that you might leave loved ones financially unprepared. By taking care of these important topics now, your family move on with their lives without fear of financial strain or future problems.