Organizing your affairs after the doctor gives bad news

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Logically, you know you aren’t going to live forever. Nevertheless, thinking about the end of your life may be a difficult thing to do. That is, until you receive the shocking diagnosis of a degenerative or incurable illness.

In addition to trying to decide how to make the best of your time, you may feel panic and confusion about how to ensure the financial stability of your family when you are no longer able to provide for them. This is where careful estate planning and organization come in.

All your information in one place

Receiving an upsetting medical diagnosis is never easy, for you or for your loved ones. You may move through the stages of grief, with each family member coping with the news in his or her own way. It will be important for you to take advantage of all the resources available to you, including medical, psychological, spiritual, financial and legal. You may have a lot of planning to do in a limited amount of time, so organization is important.

For many people, obtaining a three-ringed binder is a good starting point. This binder can be organized to include all the vital information your family will need, including:

  • A list of your assets and their value, including real estate, bank accounts, investments and retirement accounts
  • A list of your debts, including your mortgage, credit cards and loans
  • Your insurance policies, including life, health, auto and home
  • Tax returns from the previous year
  • A list of people your family can contact, including your Florida attorney, insurance agent, financial advisor, estate executor and any relatives
  • Passwords to online accounts
  • A copy of your will and other estate planning documents

It will be critical to have your will in a place where your loved ones can find it easily. Your will, in addition to designating your assets to your heirs, can include a power of attorney to handle your finances if you should become incapacitated, and a medical proxy to speak for you if doctors need someone to make decisions about your care.

Other items to include in your binder may be more personal. For example, you may wish to include information about the care of your pets if you have not included a pet trust in your estate plan. You may also want to leave information about your wishes for your funeral or memorial service, and perhaps a personal message to your loved ones.

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