The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) statistics show that 6 in 10 adults in the United States have at least one chronic disease. Also, 4 in 10 adults have two or more.
The CDC broadly defines chronic illnesses or diseases as conditions that last one year or more and require ongoing medical attention or limit activities of daily living or both. Examples of chronic illnesses include but are not limited to cancer, diabetes, heart disease, autoimmune diseases and arthritis.
Receiving a chronic illness diagnosis can be devastating and your focus and thoughts are likely going to be how the diagnosis affects you and your family. However, at some point, you will need to start planning for what’s to come. One of the best ways to do that is through your estate plan.
A well-crafted estate plan can serve as a guide preparing for your care and finances. It is a way for you to remain in control and dictate what you want in preparation for when you might not be able to communicate your desires on your own.
Here are a few estate planning tools for those battling chronic illnesses (and even those who aren’t):
Health Care Power of Attorney: To plan for the day you might become ill and unable to make medical decisions on your own, you’ll need a Health Care Power of Attorney (HCPOA), designating someone you choose to make medical decisions for you. Your HCPOA should be comprehensive and include more than just end-of-life decisions.
Your HCPOA should include a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) waiver allowing your appointed agent to access your protected and sensitive health information. Having a proper HCPOA in place gives you peace of mind to ensure that your healthcare decisions are made by someone you have trust and have faith in.
Durable Power of Attorney: Also known as a financial power of attorney, a Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA) allows for you to designate someone to manage your legal and financial matters on your behalf. Your agent will be able to manage all of your affairs to ensure they are properly handled during a time when you are unable.
You can choose the amount of control that you wish to delegate to your agent. Similar to creating a HCPOA, you will have peace of mind in knowing that your agent is someone that you have chosen –because the alternative would result in a court making the decision for you.
Revocable Trust and Financial Management: Typically, revocable trusts are used to avoid delays, cost, and public disclosure of your estate passing through a probate process. Revocable trusts can also be used to safeguard the succession of financial management when you’re unable to continue managing your own affairs. For example, a revocable trust can require a professional care manager or trust protector to assess your finances and/or health on a regular basis.
Many issues relating to your illness – such as its symptoms and treatments, may have an impact on the way that your estate planning documents are prepared. Therefore, it is important for you to consult an estate planning attorney who is not only knowledgeable, but who is also compassionate. A qualified estate planning attorney will be well-prepared to give to your estate planning needs.
Jada L. Gaines is an associate attorney with Elder Law & Estate Planning Center in Bluffton. hiltonheadelderlaw.com