A cancer diagnosis is life-changing. Far-off worries about family and finances suddenly become immediate concerns. Regardless of the type or stage of cancer, the diagnosis brings important questions to the forefront.

Patients with terminal cancer – as well as patients with less severe cases – may begin considering how they can protect themselves, their property and their loved ones. Estate planning is often part of this process.

Express medical wishes with advance directives

End-of-life medical care is highly personal. You can legally protect your health care preferences through advance directives such as health care powers of attorney, living wills, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and more. Your doctors must follow these directives when they apply.

Create a plan for minor children

If you are a parent, you will likely have unique concerns about your children. Regardless of the survival rate of your diagnosis, it is important for children to know that someone will take care of them even if you cannot. In your will, you can name trusted guardians for minor children as well as inheritance distribution. This may provide some peace of mind for both you and your family.

Talk to your doctors and loved ones

Once you create a legal document that may impact your medical care, ensure that your hospital and doctors have it on file. If you become incapacitated or face an urgent medical situation, your medical provider will defer to your documents first. If you have a DNR, there are bracelets, necklaces and other methods to signify your preferences in an emergency.

In a difficult time of life, estate planning can give you the power to express your goals and personal wishes. You have options to protect your spouse, your property, your children and yourself in the midst of the many challenges that cancer presents.