A surprising number of American don’t have financial or health plans in place to deal with end-of-life matters. Without the right documents or financial provisions, seniors can be subject to unfortunate, yet avoidable, conditions. One in five Americans over the age of 65 is subject to financial abuse for this reason, but few people think they are vulnerable. The good news is that estate planning mistakes can be fixed.

Four particular documents are essential for estate planning: a will, an advanced healthcare directive and a power of attorney for both health and financial matters. In order to avoid being overwhelmed, advisers recommend that people should approach this process in a piecemeal manner. The most financially threatening issues should be dealt with first, including excessive debt that threatens assets. Then, it’s important to specify the kind of care an individual wants if they become incapacitated.

Since personal and family priorities and circumstances change over time, it’s important for individuals to keep their estate plans updated. When someone makes a fresh financial start through bankruptcy or has new people join their family, they’ll typically find that their old plans are no longer adequate or relevant. A lack of urgency should not prevent someone from making changes.

Many families feel like they can’t approach estate planning properly because of their debt. Chapter 13 is a legal process that may help solve this problem. This form of bankruptcy is often preferable to traditional Chapter 7 because it is designed to prevent home foreclosure and lower monthly payments on debt. Bankruptcy attorneys may often provide the support and guidance required for individuals to go through this process, creating the conditions necessary for effective estate planning.