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My loved one has a chronic illness. Do I need to rethink my financial and estate planning? Where do I start?

You are not alone. Some 125 million Americans are affected by, and 22 percent have more than one, chronic illness. Many issues need to be addressed by both you and your loved one.

Putting in the time and effort now can alleviate many of the problems your family will face when dealing with this challenge.

An important first step is to seek out a wealth advisor who has the expertise to help you carry out a wealth management reassessment and any needed restructuring. Four key areas need to be reviewed and addressed:


Determine what the financial implications and costs of the chronic illness might be. A revised financial plan will depend upon the answers to many hard but important questions. How much longer might the person be able to work? Will treating the illness and caring for your loved one be a significant financial burden? Can current cash flow finance the additional expenses required for treating the illness, or are cash flow management changes needed? How might you budget for new expenses such as in-home care or alterations to the home to better take care of your loved one?

A chronic illness is emotionally draining and overwhelming. Educate yourself about the illness and what you can do to help.


All estate documents should be reviewed: the will, the living will, the power of attorney, the healthcare directive and trusts. Reassess all of the thinking that your loved one put into the original planning. If family members are involved, include them in the review. Circumstances have changed; this needs to be reflected in all of the documents.

Particular language is often needed in estate documents to address special needs that may arise. These issues can range from caregiver support and the naming of trustees to the delineation of their responsibilities.


If the individual who is ill can work or remain independent for several years, that timeline needs to be taken into account for decisions regarding what portfolio returns may be needed. If investments need to be sold to payfor illness-related costs, consider the tax consequences and portfolio rebalancing concerns when deciding which holdings to liquidate.


If your loved one is in a group medical insurance plan and there is an option to switch to a higher-cost, more comprehensive plan, be sure to explore this alternative. See if a term insurance plan can be converted to a permanent plan. If there is a disability income insurance policy, refresh your memory as to what triggers payment and how you might collect.

And help your loved one begin planning and addressing wealth management issues as soon as possible. The more you do now, the more you will help reduce emotional difficulties and avoid hardships that may arise later.

This article was originally published in the February/March 2016 issue of Worth.

Family Matters

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