Why A Living Will Might Be Part of Your Estate Plan
Good Planning Includes a Living Will

Why A Living Will Might Be Part of Your Estate Plan

There are several different legal documents that your estate planning attorney can prepare for you to direct how you want health care to be provided. The Medical Advance Directive often refers to a Living Will, but the category also includes medical durable powers of attorney, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) directives, Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) orders, Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment (MOST) and other directives regarding your medical care in the event you have a medical crisis, a terminal medical condition and just before or after your passing. The article “About the Law” from The Villager describes these important issues in detail.

In some states, a Living Will is known as an Advanced Directive for Medical/Surgical Treatment. This document tells medical professionals how you want to be treated, if you are suffering from a terminal condition that is neither curable nor reversible, or if you are in a coma, also known as a “persistent vegetative state” and cannot speak for yourself. It’s referred to more commonly as a Living Will and is signed with the same type of formality as a Last Will and Testament. Like your will, it must be signed in front of two witnesses and it must be notarized.

The Living Will is used for two situations. One is a terminal condition, where the use of life-saving procedures will only postpone death, but not promote any healing that would lead to a recovery. The second is in a persistent vegetative state, which must be determined by medical professionals. There are three choices for the family: one is to forgo life-sustaining treatment and let the person die. The second is to accept life-sustaining treatment, but only for a limited period of time. Often this is to allow family members to gather to say their farewells. The third is to continue life-sustaining treatment.

A person may express their wishes for their care and also give permission to certain persons to talk with their doctor. This is made necessary, due to the HIPAA act. Otherwise, the doctor would legally not be permitted to discuss the patient’s care with unauthorized people.

As long as you are able to make your own medical decisions, you can determine what treatments to receive, or which treatments you do not wish to receive. The goal of the Living Will is to allow you to express your wishes, if you have lost the ability to communicate.

Other estate planning documents that you’ll need are a will, to distribute your property, a financial or general power of attorney, so that someone you name can make decisions and take actions on your financial affairs and, depending upon your situation, a trust.

Because the laws governing living wills and estate planning are set by your state, you’ll want to speak with an estate planning attorney in your community. They’ll help you determine how you want your medical care to proceed, guide you in clarifying your wishes for your family and create the necessary legal documents to fulfill your wishes.

Learn about the importance of a living will.

Reference: The Village (July 3, 2019) “About the Law”

Blended Family Calls For Protecting Children and New Spouse
Blended Families Requires Careful Estate Planning

Blended Family Calls For Protecting Children and New Spouse

There are a number of issues in estate planning that are more important in second and subsequent marriages. The planning needs of blended families are discussed in the article “Estate planning documents for second marriages” from the Cleveland Jewish News. A couple who each have children from a prior marriage are planning to marry again and blend their families. Consequently, the blended family couple needs to address income taxes, a prenuptial agreement, pension and 401(k) benefits, Social Security, college funding, cost sharing and estate planning documents.

Here’s an example of how important estate planning is for blended families. A couple who has children of their prior marriages get married. Twenty years later, the husband dies. He had wanted to provide for his second wife, so his will stated that all his assets went to his wife, with the understanding that on her death, those assets would go back to his children.

What actually occurred was that his wife lived a long time after he passed, and she simply combined their assets. When she died, the money went to her children, and her husband’s children received nothing. The husband’s children didn’t believe that he meant to do that, but because of the lack of planning, that’s exactly what happened.

What were the alternatives? He could have set up a marital trust that would have held the assets for his second wife on his death, but upon the wife’s passing, would have gone back to his children. The trust document prohibits the wife from transferring the assets to her children.

It’s wonderful to have a verbal agreement with your spouse, but if you don’t set up a formal legal plan, there’s no way to be sure that assets will be distributed as intended.

Another way to ensure that children from a blended family receive what they are intended, is to have an independent person or entity, like a bank or a trust company, oversee a marital trust.

Other important documents include a durable financial power of attorney, durable health care power of attorney and a living will declaration.

Anyone who has been divorced needs to review their estate planning documents to ensure that they reflect their new marital status, especially when they marry again. That is also the time to review beneficiary designations that appear on insurance policies, 401(k)s, pensions, retirement accounts and investment accounts.

There’s no “set it and forget” plan for estate documents, so before you walk down the aisle a second time, or shortly after you do so, speak with an estate planning attorney to clarify your goals and put them into the appropriate estate planning documents.

See how to design an estate plan with a blended family.

Reference: Cleveland Jewish News (May 7, 2019) “Estate planning documents for second marriages”

Do You Need a Power of Attorney When Diagnosed with a Serious Illness?
Power of Attorney is Necessary With Chronic Diseases

Do You Need a Power of Attorney When Diagnosed with a Serious Illness?

Having a power of attorney is critical for the more than 130 million Americans living with chronic illness. Forbes’ recent article, “Estate Planning Musts When You Or A Or A Loved One Has A Chronic Illness,” says that if you (or a loved one) are living with a chronic illness, you’ll likely need a good power of attorney and other important estate planning documents.

The article discusses these key estate planning documents, along with some suggestions that might help you customize them to your unique challenges because of chronic illness. These documents might need to be altered to better serve your needs or address your challenges. It’s best to get your estate planning documents in place, soon after your diagnosis.

HIPAA Release. The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 governs the requirements for maintaining the confidentiality of protected or personal health information (PHI). A HIPAA Release lets someone you trust access your protected health information.

Living Will. This is a statement of your health care wishes and can address end of life decisions, as well as many other matters. If you’re living with a chronic illness, there are special considerations you might want to make in having a living will prepared. You might alter the general language to explain your specific disease. The fact that you’re living with disease doesn’t mean you might not face another health issue. Therefore, if you make modifications, set them out as examples of specific changes but retain the broad language that might be more typically used. You can address the disease you have, at what stage and with what anticipated disease course, and how if at all these matters should be reflected. You might wish to also speak to experimental treatments.

Health Care Proxy. This is also known as a medical power of attorney. It is a legal document in which you designate a trusted person to make medical decisions for you, if you’re unable to do so. If your health challenges might result in your becoming incapacitated, you can say that the agent appointed under your health proxy is also to be named as your guardian of the person, should a guardianship proceeding ever happen. Although this may not be binding on the court, it may be persuasive.

Physician Order for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST). This is a document that may be included as part of your medical records. A POLST is meant for the end of life medical decisions and may not be as broad as what you might accomplish with a health proxy or living will.

Financial Power of Attorney. This legal document lets you designate a trusted person to handle your legal, tax, and financial matters, if you can’t. There are some unique considerations for those living with chronic illnesses to consider. One is the amount of control that should be given up now or at what stage. Relinquish enough control, so you can be assisted to the degree necessary, but not more than you need at any point in time. Another characteristic for your powers of attorney, is if you should sign a special power that restricts the agent’s authority to certain specified items or sign a general power that provides broad and almost unlimited powers to the agent.

A Revocable Trust. A frequent goal of a revocable trust is to avoid the publicity, costs and difficulties of probate. However, if you or a family member has a chronic illness, using a revocable trust may be a good way to provide for succession of management for your finances.

Learn when you need a power of attorney.

Reference: Forbes (July 5, 2019) “Estate Planning Musts When You Or A Or A Loved One Has A Chronic Illness”