Older Americans facing difficult decisions toward the end of their lives need all the help they can get. The same is true of their caregivers.
Money issues are often a concern. Physical and mental-capacity problems may emerge. And before death, most of us want to get our legal affairs in order as much as possible.
But how do you find professional and trustworthy legal, medical and financial specialists when you're in the throes of a crisis? You might, for instance, need professional guidance when suddenly confronted with decisions on life-or-death medical treatment, end-of-life legal matters or estate planning that will affect your heirs for years to come.
It's not always easy, but you can obtain trusted advice and get quality help in the middle of the storm. Here are five steps to get the assistance you need, at a time when you need it most.
1. Ask for referrals from trusted individuals
To find professional help, start by asking friends, family and colleagues for recommendations. Experts you know, such as your accountant or banker, can also point you in the direction of, say, an estate-planning attorney or a health care advocate.
"Utilize your current network — personal and professional — to guide you to a person that's right for you and that can handle your needs," says Kara Kaiser, senior vice president and managing director at BMO Wealth Management in Milwaukee.
Northwestern Mutual's 2016 Planning and Progress Study found that the majority of Americans (54 percent) believe that the ideal solution combines a human relationship with technology. And when asked about how they prefer to receive financial advice, those 50 and older were, perhaps surprisingly, most likely to opt for "human relationship coupled with technology" (57 percent), compared with 51 percent of millennials (18-34) and 53 percent of Generation Xers (age 35-49).
2. Always interview multiple experts
Even if you need to move quickly to handle crucial legal or health care matters, resist the temptation to hire the first adviser you meet. Otherwise, you may sorely regret your choice.
"It's important to interview several advisers," says Amy Hale, a director and private wealth adviser at BMO Private Bank in Naples, Fla.
Be aware, too, that your emotions may be running high during the crisis and may cloud your judgment.