Updated October 3, 2013
Though it’s not an issue we like to think about, a diagnosis with a life-threatening disease forces many of us to plan for a time when we may not be able to manage our own finances or tell others what we want.
To ensure your wishes are met, you may want to consider these financial planning documents, which vary from state to state. You can get assistance with these documents from a legal assistance organization near you or a private lawyer.
- Financial Power of Attorney. Financial power of attorney allows you to give a trusted friend or family member legal access to your assets. This status also allows them to act on your behalf to pay your bills or make financial decisions if you are unwilling or unable to do so. You can decide when this power goes into effect, either right away, or at some point in the future.
- Advanced Health Care Directives (AHCD). This document allows you to name a healthcare power of attorney, which allows a trusted friend or family member to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. This document also allows you to include a living will, your choices about organ donation, and other instructions about your health care if you become unable to make medical decisions on your behalf.
- Wills. A will is a document that contains your instructions and wishes as to how your property and assets are to be distributed after you pass away. They are particularly useful if you are in a nontraditional, unmarried relationship, if you have major assets (like a house) or if you want to make a bequest to benefit a charity. If you have a child or children, you could also ask that someone be named guardian in your will. If you have extensive or complicated assets, then consider asking an attorney about whether or not you should also have a trust.
Several nonprofit groups provide free legal services to low-income people with cancer. Click here for more information.
Learn more about lead reviewer Joanna L. Fawzy Morales, Esq, and the other providers who helped us write this page in our Guide to Understanding Financial Concerns, 1st ed., 2010.