It is easy to procrastinate in making end-of-life decisions. They come with uncomfortable thoughts and can be hard to discuss with family. Elder law attorneys can make the process easier by directing the conversation to the perspective of your family members instead, helping you to realize that you have the opportunity to control the situation with the love and support they need at a challenging time.
Accidents and illnesses are sudden and unexpected, so the sooner you make end-of-life preparations, the better. It starts with a strategic plan to evaluate your estate, inventory assets, determine beneficiaries, and consider how the estate is administered after death. Some decisions will be easy, while others will require more consideration. Your estate planning attorney will introduce situations you haven’t thought about and offer ideas and options to ensure you have trusted helpers making financial and health care decisions when you are unable. They may also carry out health care instructions, directing medical professionals on acceptable treatments based on your values and preferences. With these details clearly defined, your family members don’t have to struggle with end-of-life decisions.
What If You Don’t Have a Plan?
Consider Debbie, a retired teacher living alone. Her family lives out of state, so there is no one nearby to help as her health progressively declines. Eventually, it becomes too difficult to perform daily tasks, and she moves into assisted living, where she suffers a stroke that leads to a coma. Her family is contacted by medical staff about how they want to proceed. Should they keep Debbie on life support in a long-term care facility? Does she have any insurance or other resources in place to provide for the cost of continued care? The family is emotionally distraught and unsure about what Debbie wants and what resources are available. They have no idea whether Debbie wanted any extraordinary measures to keep her alive in the event of permanent unconsciousness.
If you or your loved one have not documented end-of-life preparations, family members will likely struggle to find answers, sorting through personal effects in your home, looking for online accounts, and making phone calls to verify information. This only adds to the grieving process, resulting in situations you never intended.
Elder Law and Estate Planning
An elder law attorney helps you create a strategic plan that considers potential in-home and nursing facility care needs and how to cover the cost. The elder law attorney will discuss living wills and advanced health care directives that can provide instruction to family members if you become incapacitated, including types of treatment and what would or would not be acceptable to you. A list of assets and bank accounts can be accessible to a named agent under a power of attorney, successor trustee, or executor under a will.
A key document in your estate plan is a will. It allows you to specify where your money and possessions should go after you pass. It also allows you to choose an executor to manage the estate, pay debts, and distribute property as specified and according to your wishes. It only takes effect when you die and must go through probate.
A living trust does everything a will can do but also allows you to choose someone to manage your assets if you become incapacitated during your lifetime. A living trust also provides privacy, as it is not subject to public probate court proceedings.
Living Wills and Health Care Power of Attorney
A living will specifies your wishes for end-of-life medical care. You can indicate whether you want to be kept alive by artificial means if you have a terminal condition. A health care power of attorney allows someone to make health care decisions for you if you aren’t able to make your own decisions. Both of these documents can be carefully crafted to address unique situations.
Financial Power of Attorney
A financial power of attorney names an agent to handle finances on your behalf. Your agent can open and close bank accounts, write checks, and sell property depending on the authority you give them in the document. Be sure all your assets and finances are accurately documented. Powers of attorney have changed, and there are some actions that your agent will not be authorized to perform unless they are specifically stated.
Having an estate plan is necessary if you want to remain in control over what happens when you fall ill or become incapacitated and to ensure that your assets and belongings go to those you choose after death. A properly prepared estate plan also helps family members resolve your estate quickly and easily.
We hope you found this article to be helpful. Please contact Butcher Elder Law or call us at (440) 268-8284 to see how we can help with your legal matters.