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Breast Cancer Awareness Month: Estate Planning and Breast Cancer Diagnosis

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The 1st of October marks the beginning of National Breast Cancer Awareness month. 

A cancer diagnosis affects every aspect of your life and not just your health. Your savings might get depleted due to expensive treatments. Then there is the question of life expectancy, life insurance and estate planning. 

After diagnosis, your immediate focus would be on determining the course of medical treatments with your oncologist. The emotional impact of such a diagnosis is hard to digest and things that once held a higher priority takes a back seat. But, it is necessary to muster courage and address issues concerning your finances and estates. 

Will your health insurance cover the entire cost of treatment or only a part of it? Who will assist you in filling out the important paperwork and documents? Do you have an advance health directive in place? What about future caregivers? Will they handle your estate for you when you are receiving treatments? 

Estate Plan and Breast Cancer Diagnosis

An Estate Plan gives women and mothers, whether they are facing a difficult diagnosis or not, a way to put their wishes in writing. Common Estate Planning tools that a woman can make use of while creating her Estate Plan include:

Last Will and Testament

A Last Will and Testament is necessary especially for those with young children. Through this estate planning tool, you can appoint a guardian (an individual whom you trust) to look after your children in case of your death. With whom do your children live and who will look after their financial needs are mentioned in a Last Will and Testament. 

Living Trust

A Living Trust or Revocable Trust guarantees your accrued wealth will be passed down to beneficiaries of your choosing. It is a document that suggests who receives what part of your estate. A Living trust is usually preferred over a Will as it avoids a lengthy court-supervised probate process. 

Power of Attorney

A Power of Attorney is someone who ‘steps into your shoes’ in case of your sudden illness or incapacity. When you appoint a Power of Attorney for your financial matters, they are authorized to make legal, tax and financial decisions on your behalf. 

Health Care Proxy

A Health Care Proxy, also known as Health Care Surrogate or Health Care Directive allows you to plan for difficult medical decisions. Through this, you can appoint someone to make health-related decisions for you in case you are unable to make them yourself. This avoids disagreements between family members as to who must decide on critical health matters (matters pertaining to your health.)

HIPAA Authorization

This is a Health Insurance Portability Accounting Act document that authorizes the release of medical documents which are otherwise not permitted by a HIPAA privacy rule. A HIPAA Authorization ensures the people designated to make health-related decisions for you are able to communicate with healthcare providers about your diagnosis and treatment. 

Living Will

A Living Will allows you to state your wishes about your end-of-life medical care. This allows your health care directive or health care surrogate to carry out your health care wishes regarding life-sustaining procedures. Living Wills include a set of legal instructions about the treatment you wish to receive. 

While proper planning for your estates might not improve your medical outcomes, it reduces the burden of managing them as well as protecting your loved ones.