A hard truth about life is that we never know how long it will last.
Many of us prefer not to dwell on death, or even give it much thought at all. But especially if you have children or financial assets, there are steps you can and should take now while you’re alive.
Sometimes we think of those issues as only for those with major health challenges or the elderly. And although that can be true, some of the same advice applies to all of us as adults.
You want to make sure that your assets go to the people that you want them to with minimal legal hassle. And that your family gets protected while going through minimal additional stress while they’re grieving.
What are some of the key legal and financial documents you should consider?
I’ve Got an Incurable Disease. What Do I Do To Legally Prepare My Finances for My Family?
I’ve got an incurable disease and expect to need full-time care within six months. What can I do to prepare financially and legally?
That’s what a Clark listener recently asked.
Asked J in Utah: “Hi Clark. I am a long-time listener (since ’93!) and grateful for your decades of advice.
“I have recently been diagnosed with an incurable disease (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s Disease). I am in my 50s, married with two kids. I will likely be in a wheelchair within the next six months and will thereafter need constant care.
“Aside from a will, living trust, health care directive, and financial power of attorney, what else should I do to get my affairs in order?”
Clark expressed heartfelt sympathy and also respect and admiration for J.
“I want to tell you how sorry I am for you and your family with your diagnosis of Lou Gehrig’s Disease. It’s a tough, tough road in front of you,” Clark says.
“I can tell you are a very thoughtful individual. You’ve already thought through the documents you should have to protect your family’s interests. You have done everything you should’ve done.
“The healthcare directive obviously is a very important thing for you to do here. And so I’m confident and comfortable that your time should be spent enjoying your family.
“I find your words inspiring. Because you’ve received a brutal diagnosis. And yet you’re doing the things you need to do to take care of your family.”
End-of-Life Legal Documents To Prepare for Your Finances and Health
If you’ve never looked into end-of-life legal documents or thought about what would happen if you’re living but incapacitated, here’s a quick overview of the things J mentioned:
- Will: Also called a last will and testament, this legal document dictates who will inherit your assets, including your money, when you die. Clark urges everyone to create one. We can help you learn how to create a will online and direct you to the best online will makers.
- Living Trust: This estate-planning tool allows a designated trustee to manage a person’s assets and distribute them to the correct beneficiaries after that person’s death.
- Health Care Directive: Sometimes called an advance directive, this designates a representative to make medical decisions for you if you become unable to make them for yourself. There are multiple types of advance directives, including a living will (describes potential life-prolonging support you do or don’t want), a medical power of attorney (which I’ve already described) and a do not resuscitate (DNR) order.
- Financial Power of Attorney: Similar to a health care directive, this allows a designated person to make decisions on your behalf regarding your finances and business interests.
Clark also thinks it’s a great idea to prepay for your funeral while you’re still alive.
Life is unpredictable. Sometimes it can be brutal. But there are steps you can take now to make sure that no matter what happens, your financial assets are handled in the way you intend.