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 worrying about. But, what if you only have a few weeks—or even days—to react? Who should you call? How can you concentrate enough to get this work done? Make the best use of your time by considering the following tips.
Who 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. Update any representatives and heirs in your will, and check the named beneficiaries on any insurance policies. If you do not have a will or trust in place, an attorney can usually draft a simple will to cover your most significant assets. You will also want to contact your health care power of attorney to notify them of your surgery and review 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. This can also be completed on short notice.
What should you do? At a minimum, you should attempt to have the following documents in place: (1) living will, (2) health care power of attorney, (3) financial power of attorney, (4) medical records release (allowing the release of your medical records to other persons), (5) will, (6) trust, and (7) documentation of all accounts and location of important documents.
Short on time? If you are 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 health care 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, establishing 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 attempting to have it prepared on short notice.
Making a list of your assets, their locations, and any identifying information 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 and provide his or her contact information to your loved ones so they can advise them as needed. While estate planning may be the last thing you want to do before major surgery, I am here to help you in obtaining peace of mind knowing that your documents are in order.