Getting the news that you have to undergo major surgery is never easy. Preparing for absences from work, planning for childcare and household responsibilities, and reviewing your estate plan will be among the things you may be worried about. However, what if you only have a few weeks—or even days—to react? Whom should you call? How can you concentrate enough to get this work done? To make the best use of your time, consider the following tips.
Whom should you call?
After notifying loved ones of the impending surgery, you should call your estate planning attorney to ensure your documents are up-to-date and accurately reflect your current assets and wishes. Take the time to update any representatives and heirs in your will and double-check the named beneficiaries on any insurance policies; remember these are contractual agreements that exist outside of your estate planning documents. If you do not have a will or trust in place, an attorney, such as those in our firm, can usually draft a simple will to cover your most significant assets in less than a week.
You will also want to contact your healthcare power of attorney to let them know of your surgery and review any changes to your wishes about healthcare decisions. If you do not have a healthcare power of attorney, now is the time to make sure that one is executed. This document can also be completed on noticeably short notice.
What should you do?
At a minimum, you should try to have the following documents in place:
- living will
- a healthcare power of attorney
- a financial power of attorney
- HIPPA release (allowing the release of your medical records to other persons)
- documentation of all accounts and location of essential documents
Short on time?
If you are really short on time, you may want to focus your attention on identifying key people you trust to serve on your behalf in the event you are unable, including a healthcare power of attorney and 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, setting up a legal guardian is essential and can be done through a will. Keep in mind that while a simple Will can be drafted quickly, states have varying requirements for the execution of Wills that may need to be taken into consideration when trying to have it prepared on short notice.
Making a list of your assets, their locations, and any identifying information will help your loved ones find your assets if necessary-don’t forget digital accounts during this process. You can also make sure that your attorney has copies of your documents and information and supply his or her contact information to your loved ones so he can advise them as needed.
While estate planning may be the last thing you want to do before major surgery, we are here to aid you in obtaining peace of mind knowing that your documents are in order.