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Three Legal Strategies When Facing A Major Health Event (Guest Post)

Curtis Kaiser, Esq., a professional colleague and a personal friend of ours, recently wrote his own blog post on Major Health Events. To me it was impactful and I asked Curtis if we could share it with our clients and friends.  Last month, Curtis volunteered a day of his time to be Counselor for a Day in our conference room where he gave free 30-60-minute sessions where a client could ask anything about estate planning.  This blog fits into the category of Estate Planning, but there’s a healthy amount of Risk Management involved.  Being prepared (in estate planning) is a great way to manage future risks.  I know you will enjoy this blog by our friend, Curtis Kaiser.


I started writing this blog post a couple of months ago before the health issue that I’ve been dealing with for a few decades became a more near-term focus.  I hope that it can be helpful to Inspired Financial clients and friends who have face or are facing personal or family health issues of their own.

I have a kidney disease known as IgA Nephropathy.  I was diagnosed at age 13 and have been monitoring the condition with my doctors for the last 30+ years and living a pretty normal life.  As my kidney function has continued to drop, we are now preparing for a kidney transplant in early 2019 (and sharing our story at https://www.curtiscan.com).  We are working with the transplant center to do the testing and line up the best possible donor.

Three Legal Strategies When Facing A Major Health Event You and Your Family Need to Know

It’s not surprising to know that receiving a health diagnosis or learning that you need to undergo major surgery can cause substantial disruption in your day-to-day life. During this time, the last thing you may want to think about is estate planning. Although you may have many things going through your head at the moment, now is a crucial time to make sure your estate plan is in order.  Proactive planning can help put your mind at ease and let you focus on your treatment. Let’s review your estate plan together to make sure each of the following important components is up to date and reflects your current goals and wishes.

Healthcare Documents

Your healthcare documents include your powers of attorney, advance directives, and HIPAA authorization. These documents let you appoint someone to receive information about your medical condition and to even help you make medical decisions if you’re unable to do so. You probably already know which of your loved ones you’d like at the helm if a situation arises. But whoever you’ve chosen needs to be given the explicit authority to act so that you can rest easy knowing they’ll be there to make decisions if you need them.  When there is an opportunity to plan in advance (like I have with my upcoming surgery at UCLA), I recommend that clients consider filling out the institution’s proprietary form (https://www.uclahealth.org/Workfiles/site/AdvanceDirective_English.pdf) because the institution will be more familiar with their own form.

Financial Power of Attorney

While a healthcare agent or proxy can make decisions on your behalf in medical scenarios, a financial power of attorney concerns your money, investments, bills, and taxes. Although it relates to different decisions, it is just as important a designation. Having this document in place can give a trusted person (such as a spouse, child, or friend) the authority to help you with your finances and property so these issues don’t have to be a distraction while you focus on your health.  The financial power of attorney applies to any assets that are not titled in the name of your living trust – typically checking accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, etc.

Updated Trusts

An up-to-date and fully-funded trust lets you focus on your health while your successor trustee handles the affairs of your trust, which could include most, if not all of your assets. In this case, you’ll still receive the benefit of your trust, but your successor trustee will manage the trust on your behalf. If there’s not sufficient time to fully fund a trust, then an up-to-date will can at least put you in control of who receives what upon your death.  When time is of the essence a will may be the only realistic planning tool, but if you already have a trust it can be a relatively easy process to update and fully fund it.

For example, my wife Kristie and I are co-trustees of our trust.  Therefore, during and immediately following my surgery, while I am “incapacitated,” Kristie will have full authority to make financial decisions regarding our trust assets (e.g. house, brokerage accounts, etc.).  It’s important that I have confidence in my trustee!

A little planning goes a long way when it comes to medically-trying times. As busy as you may be when you’re handling your own medical issues or the medical issues of a loved one, even one conversation can be enough for us to define and implement the estate planning documents that will help you feel more prepared for whatever comes next. Please reach out to your team at Inspired Financial and/or feel free to contact us at Kaiser Law Group so we can chat about your needs and helping you obtain peace of mind.

Curtis Kaiser, JD/MBA
Board Certified Specialist in Estate Planning, Trust & Probate Law
Kaiser Law Group

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