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Preparing your family when you receive a bad diagnosis

You thought you had more time. In fact, you may have thought you had all the time in the world. You are not alone. Many in Arizona and across the country don't give a thought about the end of their lives until they are faced with bad news regarding either their own health or the health of a loved one. Suddenly, the plans you made for the future are set aside for a different kind of plan.

If you are dealing with a life-changing medical diagnosis, you certainly have many things on your mind, including how you will provide a secure future for your loved ones while you are still well enough. The first step is to seek as much information as you can about the most appropriate estate planning tools for your circumstances. Then, it's time to get organized.

Organizing your documents

Because you want your information to be easily accessible to your loved ones, you may wish to use the same form of organization many others have: the ringed-binder. You can divide your binder into sections and keep all the information your loved ones need in one place. The binder should have copies of your estate planning documents such as your will and power of attorney. You can keep the originals in a safe place, like a fireproof home safe or in your attorney's office.

In addition to your estate planning documents, other information you can keep in the binder includes:

  • Photos and lists of your valuables and the names of those who will inherit them
  • A list of the numbers for your bank accounts, investment accounts, retirement accounts and online accounts
  • Passwords
  • Names and contact information for your beneficiaries
  • A list of all your debts and creditors, account numbers, and contact information
  • A copy of your most recent tax returns
  • Phone numbers for your attorney, life insurance agent, doctors, estate executor, power of attorney and others who may prove helpful to your family
  • Instructions for how to care for your pet
  • Instructions for the continuation or cancellation of special services, such as lawn mowing, house cleaners and newspaper delivery

Once you have organized your binder, keep it in a safe place where it will not be vulnerable to water or fire damage. If you keep it locked away, make sure someone knows where to find the key since the binder contains information, such as the name of your health care proxy, which may be urgently needed. Having your estate plan prepared and all vital information ready for your loved ones may give you peace of mind at this difficult time.

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