The emotional impact of a diagnosis can be devastating, but there are steps you can take to help both you and your business adjust to such a shock. These steps will help you develop strategies and make the right decisions for your business.
Organise the information you will need
Use our Critical information list template to help organise a detailed file of the information you, or your power of attorney, could need during this time.
Decide what to do with the business
This will be your most immediate decision. Your answer depends on the financial strength of the business, the stress of the illness and treatment, and the expected time you’ll need to recover from it.
Options you may need to consider are:
- selling or handing over the business
- closing the business
- getting a temporary caretaker
- continuing to work.
Inform the people who matter
Communication with the key people in your life and business is important for support and decision making. You may want to discuss your treatment, the length of time you expect to be away from the business and any plans for succession.
In addition to your family and friends, consider telling people such as:
- your business partners
- customers or clients.
Your general practitioner and specialist should be told you run a small business and as a result, the decisions they make about your treatment will affect your livelihood.
You can find a low-cost mentor from the Small Business Mentoring Service, who can help you deal with your communication with business-related people.
Ask questions and develop strategies
Ask yourself some key questions to help figure out your next steps.
- how attached you are to your business?
- are members of your family also involved?
- are they employees of the business and have they invested money in it?
- do you have other interests and job prospects outside the business?
- was the business always meant to be your 'retirement fund'?
- do you have sufficient superannuation?
Get your finances in order
Contact your bank manager, financial adviser, accountant and insurance and superannuation providers to get advice on appropriate measures to take. Most banks and financial institutions will consider suspending mortgage payments during treatment for a critical illness. Other options which can provide relief are income protection insurance and early access to superannuation.
The Utility Relief Grant Scheme provides assistance for domestic customers who are not able to pay their utility bills (gas, electricity and water) due to a temporary financial crisis.
Appoint a power of attorney
The physical and emotional stress of dealing with a critical illness can be overwhelming, but you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Consider appointing a power of attorney to give someone the legal ability to act on your behalf.
In Victoria you can choose from:
- general power of attorney - you appoint someone to make financial or legal decisions on your behalf for a set period of time
- enduring power of attorney (financial) - you appoint someone to make financial or legal decisions if in the future you are not able to make those decisions for yourself
- enduring power of attorney (medical treatment) - you appoint someone to make medical treatment decisions if in the future you are not able to make those decisions for yourself
- enduring power of guardianship - you appoint someone to make lifestyle decisions (e.g. where you will live) if in the future you are not able to make those decisions for yourself.
Create or update your will
If you’ve been diagnosed with an illness which threatens your life, it's important to get your will in order. If you don’t have a will you should spend time and money on an appointment with a solicitor. If a will already exists, it may need to be updated in terms of how your finances and assets will be affected by your illness and treatment.