June marks Men’s Health Month, a time dedicated to raising awareness about health issues predominantly affecting men and encouraging the early detection and treatment of disease among men and boys. So this month, let’s turn the focus to you, gentlemen. You already know that taking care of your health allows you to prolong your life and enhance your quality of life. But have you given serious thought to how your health directly impacts your future? Your legacy? The ones you love the most?

What we’re talking about here is estate planning, and it’s every bit as important as your physical health. I know, I know, it could sound weird to equate health with estate planning, but hear me out. By the end of the article, the connection will be clear.

The Link Between Your Health and Estate Planning

Estate planning often brings to mind wills, trusts, and other legal paperwork, and in fact, that’s maybe what you initially thought when you read the title of this article. However, I want to challenge that assumption with this: the documents are merely the byproduct of estate planning.

You may be thinking, How are documents the “byproduct” of estate planning? Here’s what I mean.

Estate planning is all about ensuring your wishes are honored if you become incapacitated so you can live and die with dignity. It’s also about ensuring that the people you love most will know you loved them, that they’re cared for when you’re gone in a way you cared for them while you lived, and that you’ve removed all the pain, potential conflict and expense they will have to endure if you have no plan in place. Estate planning supports your loved ones to grieve in peace rather than face a long, expensive court process or confusion regarding how to find your assets or understand what to do when you are gone.

Estate planning is also about leaving a legacy. Contrary to what you may be thinking – that legacy is not only related to money and reserved for the wealthy and philanthropic – legacy is about the mark you make on those you hold most dear. It’s about defining your humanity and what you stood for. Putting your affairs in order now so your loved ones don’t have to deal with a mess later is a legacy, too. Making it clear that you loved your family is a legacy.

What about health? How does your health connect with estate planning?

Your health plays a significant role in shaping your preparations for the future in general, and how you structure your estate plan in particular. I want to first say that while “health” can refer to mental health, emotional health and spiritual health, and all are important, we’ll focus on physical health here.

So let’s take a look at the direct link between your physical health and estate planning. You’ll come to see that by prioritizing your physical health, you can not only enjoy life with more ease, but also avoid complications in your estate planning.

Longevity and Retirement Savings. Your physical health has a direct impact on your lifespan, which in turn affects how long your retirement savings need to last. If you maintain good physical health, you’re likely to live longer (yay!) and will need a more extensive plan regarding your assets, for your longer life.

Healthcare Decisions. Consider the potential need for long-term care. Alzheimer’s or dementia could require long-term care solutions that you may or may not choose. In your estate plan, it’s crucial to not only make sure you’re financially covered for these possibilities, but to also ensure you’ve made it clear how you want to be cared for, if you cannot make decisions for yourself. There comes a point in time at which it’s too late for you to make your wishes known, and given that you are reading this … now is the time to document what you would choose, if you could not choose.

This is why you need a healthcare power of attorney or a living will in your plan. These are documents that designate the person (or people) you choose to make medical decisions on your behalf if you’re unable to do so. Your designated healthcare agent (or agents) will not only ensure that your healthcare preferences are respected but will also align your medical treatment with your personal wishes. Without these documents in place, a judge (i.e., a complete stranger) could appoint someone to act on your behalf. Maybe even someone you don’t trust or wouldn’t want making decisions for you. Or, in a worst case scenario, a judge could even appoint a professional conservator who could drain your estate financially.

Disability and Its Impact. Poor health can sometimes lead to disability, affecting your ability to manage your own affairs. Including a disability clause in your estate plan ensures that your assets are managed according to your wishes, even if you’re not able to oversee them personally. A revocable living trust can be particularly useful here, as it allows your chosen person or entity to manage your affairs without the need for court intervention. Again, without a plan in place, a judge will make decisions for you, and those decisions may not be what you want.

Having gone through the potential consequences of not prioritizing your physical health and its direct link to your estate planning, let’s turn to practical steps you can take now to make sure you and your family don’t have to experience any negative consequences.

Practical Steps to Integrate Health and Estate Planning

Unless you’re already incapacitated and can’t make decisions for yourself, know that it’s not too late to take action. It’s not too early, either. Death and incapacity don’t discriminate based on age. When you face that fact, and then plan accordingly, you can live life with more ease, more joy, and less stress. Truly.

So if you haven’t planned for the future, here are some practical steps you can take now:

Schedule Regular Check-Ups. It may seem obvious, but regular medical examinations are vital. They not only help in detecting illnesses early but also provide a clear picture of your health, which, as we’ve discussed above, is crucial for accurate estate planning. If you discover a new health condition, you can plan accordingly when you’ve caught it in time. If not, it could be too late to get your plan in place.

Update Your Estate Plan Regularly: As your health changes, so should your estate plan. Make it a habit to review and update your plan on a regular basis or whenever there is a significant change in your health. As a Personal Family Lawyer®, I can not only help you get your initial plan in place, but with a unique process I use called Life & Legacy Planning®, I will always include a free review of your plan at least every three years. This ensures your plan works because it will be updated as your health, life and assets change over time. Without updates, your plan will fail, sending your family to court and increasing the probability of conflict.

Discuss Your Plans Openly: Talk with your family about your healthcare wishes and how they relate to your estate plan. Taking this courageous, and maybe uncomfortable, step, makes a big difference when it comes to decreasing the likelihood of conflict in your family. Make sure to discuss your preferences for end-of-life care, which can create conflict in your family if you haven’t clarified your wishes.

Consult A Professional Who Has Your Best Interests in Mind: I approach estate planning from a place of heart, always keeping your best interests, and by extension, your loved ones’ best interests, in mind. I not only help you to get your plan in place, but also help you keep your family out of court and conflict so your legacy is one of love and care. I can also help you navigate difficult discussions with your family about your wishes, so you can feel confident knowing you’ve done all you can to preserve the family bonds.

How We Support You and Your Loved Ones

As a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm, we recognize the integral connection between your physical health and your estate planning needs. Our commitment goes beyond mere legal documentation; we aim to ensure your life’s work and values are preserved with dignity and clarity. By understanding the specific challenges and opportunities that arise from your health, we tailor estate plans that not only protect your assets but also your well-being and your family’s future.

This Men’s Health Month, take a proactive step toward safeguarding your legacy and enhancing your peace of mind. Contact us to learn how our Life & Legacy Planning® process can align your health priorities with your estate planning goals. Click here to schedule a 15-minute consultation to discuss your next best steps:

This article is a service of a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Life & Legacy Planning® Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Life & Legacy Planning Session.

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.

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