Building Legacies that Last Estate Planning and Elder Law

Does Your Estate Plan Have All the Right Stuff?

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“Many people think estate planning means deciding what happens to your things when you die. For that reason, many young families do not consider estate planning to be a priority. However, it may be one of the most important things young parents can do!”

A last will and testament is the document which parents need, to legally nominate guardians to rear their children if orphaned. It clearly delineates who should take care of the children and who should manage the money available to care for the children, as noted in The Daily Sentinel’s article titled What is missing from your estate plan?”

While some people name one person to rear the children and handle the money, it’s a good idea to separate the two roles.

Without these instructions in a will, those left behind can have very different ideas about where the children should live and who should care for them. If the two parent’s families have very strong opinions, suddenly both families have hard choices to make about what will happen to the children.

No parent wants to leave a legacy of court battles and family division.  However, that’s what is likely to happen without a will.

There are other issues that estate plans address while you are alive.  It is also necessary to plan for incapacity. A living will, also known as an “advance directive,” is important because it helps pre-answer questions, regarding what treatment and care you would want if unable to speak for yourself. Do you want to be kept alive by artificial means? You do not want your loved ones making this decision during a time of great emotional stress, so this is an important document to have in your estate plan.

Finally, your estate plan should include a medical durable power of attorney to deal with all other medical decisions other than end of life. Without it, if you are not near death but not able to share your opinions about your care, your family and your medical providers are placed in a difficult position. In contrast, those who care enough about their family designate an agent and ensure that their wishes are made legally binding.

The big question everyone must face is “When should I start working on my estate plan?” If the answer is “Later,” then the real answer is “No time soon.” For young parents, that puts your minor children in a bad position, where a court may make the decision about who will rear them and how their lives will go on after you are gone.

Don’t make your family have to go through more than they would have to anyway. Speak with an estate planning attorney to create your estate plan, including these very important documents.

Resource: The Daily Sentinel (Aug. 12, 2018) What is missing from your estate plan?”

 

You Never Know When You’ll Need an Advanced Directive

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“Advance care planning is making preparations and decisions about the medical care you want to receive, if you become unable to speak for yourself.”

Talking with your family and your physician ahead of time about what you would want if you should become incapacitated, is a difficult but necessary conversation, reports The Herald News in the article “Being Prepared: Advanced Directives.” An Advanced Directive is a key part of your estate plan. If you have reached the age of majority (age 18 in most states), then you need to have this document.

An estate planning attorney can help you ensure that you have an Advanced Directive in place which conveys your wishes to your loved ones. Discuss this ahead of time and let your family members know what you would want to happen in advance.

Select a person you know and trust to be your healthcare agent. Tell them you have selected them to serve in that role. Don’t let this be a surprise to them at the last minute. They will need to fully understand your wishes and be willing to carry them out.

Be as specific as you can about what kind of treatment you would want and which you would not. That includes medical ventilation, a feeding tube, kidney dialysis and other treatments.

Do you want to be resuscitated if you stop breathing, or have CPR performed if your heart stops working? You’ll want to have a DNR—Do Not Resuscitate—if you don’t want extreme measures to be taken to keep you alive.

Once you have made your decisions, meet with an estate planning attorney to complete a written advanced directive.

States have different sets of rules regarding advanced care directives, so an estate planning attorney in your state of residence is necessary.

 You should keep your advanced directive and DNR document, where someone can get them if an emergency occurs. Do not give it to a relative who lives two states away—they will not get to you in time. Be sure that everyone involved with your healthcare has a copy. This includes your primary care physician. Ask that your directive be maintained in your official medical file.

If you are wondering how or when to have this conversation about a loved one’s end-of-life preferences, the answer is now. Start by sharing your own wishes and then ask them to share theirs. Ask if they have made the proper preparations for their wishes to be carried out and discuss what must happen to have their wishes followed.

It’s not the happiest conversation you’ll ever have.  However, if an emergency occurs, your loved ones will have peace of mind knowing they did what you wanted. You’ll also have peace of mind.

Resource: The Herald News (Aug. 10, 2018) “Being Prepared: Advanced Directives”