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 creating 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 someone you trust legal access to your assets. This status also allows a specific person or people 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. A financial power of attorney is valid while you are living; after a person dies, their will (see below) takes over.
- 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 have major assets (like a house) or if you want to leave money, property or other items to 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 whether you should also have a trust.
Several nonprofit groups provide free legal services to low-income people with cancer.