Healthcare Directives

Are wills, medical directives and other end-of-life documents needed?

Richmond Times discusses the answer to this imperative question in a recent article regarding attorneys experiencing a surge in requests for wills and other estate planning matters as a result of COVID-19.

Legal professionals say definitely yes to make sure your wishes are honored for how your money is distributed or whether you want to be placed on a ventilator.

Wills spell out in detail who gets your property and other assets. Sometimes for young adults with minor children, wills might dictate who would serve as a guardian or how the children’s finances would be handled.

If someone dies without a will, generally that person’s property will go to the closest relative, starting with a spouse and then children. If single, the property and other assets could go to siblings or other relatives.

Advance medical directives or a health care power of attorney allow you to appoint someone to follow your decision on medical issues.

By |2021-11-05T13:09:23-07:00April 25th, 2020|

Estate planning gives peace of mind by making decisions you’ve been avoiding

St George News discusses the peace of mind that comes from having planned your future. The common elements of an estate plan include:

  • Revocable trust – Otherwise known as a “living trust.” While not appropriate for all situations, it keeps the estate private, protects against incapacity and helps to avoid probate. You also get to see how it works while still alive. For people that own a home, Brande said it is really crucial.
  • Pour-over will – A will can nominate guardians, appoint executors, include burial instructions and ensure that everything in the estate will go into a trust at the time of death to be dealt with according to documents.
  • Durable power of attorney – Used in the event of incapacity, this allows an agent to take necessary steps to place assets in a trust that may have been excluded.
  • Health care directive – This grants an agent the authority to act on your behalf and make medical decisions. Without this directive, physicians will consult the spouse or next of kin, and that can make any situation more complicated, Brande said, especially when there are many loved ones who all feel like they know what is best. In end-of-life situations, it will also direct providers when you want life-sustaining care to be withheld.
By |2021-11-05T15:05:46-07:00April 21st, 2020|

Last Will And Testament, Power Of Attorney, And Healthcare Proxy

Above the Law discusses the importance of having a Last Will And Testament, Power Of Attorney, And Healthcare Proxy:

Like an annual physical exam or dental cleaning, we know we must, but we often delay. Fear, anxiety, cost, and time are all factors in delaying that which all adults, regardless of familial structure and net worth, should accomplish. Executing estate planning documents, specifically a last will and testament, power of attorney and healthcare proxy, need not be a tremendous production, especially in the precarious times in which we live. At a minimum, we should all execute three basic documents, thus mitigating any future drama.

By |2021-11-05T13:10:37-07:00April 21st, 2020|

‘Carol Burnett’ star Tim Conway recovers from brain surgery as family battle over comic’s fate rages on

Fox:  “Tim Conway is recovering from brain surgery as his daughter and second wife fight in court over his care, Fox News learned Monday. The “Carol Burnett Show” star’s daughter, Kelly Conway, revealed that a Los Angeles court has decided a permanent conservatorship of the actor will be appointed in November. Kelly and her stepmother Charlene Conway each want sole conservatorship over the 84-year-old, who is suffering from dementia.“My brothers and I would like to thank the overwhelming support for my dad from fans all over the world that are contacting me via phone, email and social media,” Kelly told Fox News in a statement. “It lifts my brothers and me”

By |2018-09-24T14:43:08-07:00September 26th, 2018|

You May Have Signed a Living Will, but Scary Mistakes can Happen at the ER

The Washington Post: Don’t resuscitate this patient; he has a living will,” the nurse told the doctor, Monica Williams-Murphy, handing her a document. Williams-Murphy looked at the sheet bearing the signature of the unconscious 78-year-old man, who had been rushed from a nursing home to the emergency room. “Do everything possible,” it read, with a check approving cardiopulmonary resuscitation. The nurse’s mistake was based on a misguided belief that living wills automatically include “do not resuscitate” (DNR) orders. Working quickly, Williams-Murphy revived the patient, who had a urinary tract infection and recovered after a few days in the hospital. Unfortunately, misunderstandings involving documents meant to guide end-of-life decision-making are “surprisingly common,” said Williams-Murphy, medical director of advance-care planning and end-of-life education for Huntsville Hospital Health System in Alabama.”

By |2018-08-13T11:15:24-07:00August 15th, 2018|

Doctors Notes for Will Signings: Should You Get One?

JDSUPRA:  I recommend that before an ill or very elderly person signs a will (or trust), that the estate planning attorney obtain a note from a doctor as to the person’s mental capacity. Doing so will help create a record that will make it more challenging to contest the will (or trust) on the basis that the person lacked testamentary capacity (i.e., the requisite mental capacity in order to execute a will or trust).”

By |2018-03-12T08:55:56-07:00March 12th, 2018|

The Death of a Doctor’s Dog

The New York Times:  “Dr. Barron H. Lerner watched as his family’s pet boxer, Akeela, suffered from an increasingly devastating brain tumor. As the cancer progressed, she often walked in circles and was consistently restless and had trouble sleeping. Dr. Lerner and his family, emotionally taxed watching Akeela suffer, took their veterinarians advice and chose to end her suffering via in-home euthanasia.  As a practicing physician, the ability to choose to end Akeela’s suffering brought up thoughts of his oath not to “administer a poison to anybody when asked to do so nor … suggest such a course.”

By |2018-03-05T13:32:53-08:00March 8th, 2018|

Removing Obstacles to a Peaceful Death

Elder Law Journal:  We all will die, but the American health care system often impedes a peaceful death. Instead of a quiet death at home surrounded by loved ones, many of us suffer through overutilization of sometimes-toxic therapeutic interventions long past the time when those interventions do more good than harm. This article proposes revisions to health professional training and payment policy to eliminate as much as possible physical and existential suffering while progressing through the terminal phase of illness.”

By |2018-02-27T09:21:08-08:00March 2nd, 2018|

Article on Rational Patient Apathy

Wills, Trusts, & Estate Prof Blog:  “Patients with serious or life-threatening illness are frequently asked to make complex, high stakes medical decisions. The impact of anxiety, low health literacy, asymmetric information and inadequate communication between patients and health care providers, family pressures, rational apathy by health care providers, cognitive biases of both patients and health care providers, as well as other factors, make it quite difficult for patients in these circumstances to process and comprehend the strategic uncertainty and resultant risks and benefits of, and alternatives to, whatever therapeutic or life-prolonging treatment physicians are offering.”

By |2018-02-19T08:42:36-08:00February 20th, 2018|

The Conversation Your Family Must Have Today

The Street:  “Adult children and their parents are normally hesitant to discuss money or financial affairs as these subjects can be awkward. Even though such conversations are difficult it is better to have them while both parties can meaningfully engage in the discussion.

What do I mean by both parties can engage in the discussion? I mean the parents have the cognitive or mental capacity to communicate their wishes to their adult children.

According to a report by the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.2 million — or 1 in 8 Americans — over the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. The same report also cites a study which estimates 13.9% of Americans over age 71 suffer from some form of dementia.

For the aging parent getting your financial house in order is the responsible thing to do for yourself and your children. Likewise, adult children would be wise to engage in this dialogue before capacity becomes an issue. When an aging parent is struck with Alzheimer’s disease or another from dementia it will be a draining and emotional experience for the adult child. Without proper planning it will be even more stressful.”

By |2012-05-30T10:46:18-07:00May 30th, 2012|

Three Must Have Documents Everyone Should Have

There comes a point in every person’s life when it is time to sit back and take stock of what you have accomplished.  This could be a beautiful family, a lovely home or a thriving business.  Whatever the source of your pride, it makes sense to protect it, just like you would any other asset.  You protect your home and your business with insurance, but what about yourself and your family?

Protecting yourself and your family doesn’t have to be difficult or expensive.  But it does need to be done.  Here are the three must have documents everybody should have to protect themselves and their families:

1. Last Will & Testament

You probably know what this document is.  It disposes of your assets after your death.  Without a Will, your state of residence determines how your assets should be divided.  But can you really depend on some ambiguous state laws to protect your family?  Wouldn’t it be better to lay everything out in such a way that ensures your wishes are followed?  This is what a Will does for you.

What many people don’t know about Wills is that a Will is where you name the guardian for your minor children.  Don’t have a Will?  Now the state gets to pick a guardian for your kids.  Do you trust the state to pick the best possible person to raise your children?  I don’t know many people who would.

Your Will also names the Personal Representative of your estate.  This is the person responsible for administering your estate by paying your final taxes, paying any creditors and collecting and distributing your property.  Once again, without a Will, the state will pick your Personal Representative too.

Because your Will handles some of the most important decisions of your life, it is the number one on my must have documents list.  Forcing your heirs to have to look to the state to sort out these important decisions is costly, time consuming, and totally unnecessary.  And, since over half of all Americans don’t have Wills, the process will likely get even worse.  Save your family the burden of having to sort through all of these issues and write your Will.

2. Healthcare Power of Attorney

You’ve probably heard of this document too.  A Healthcare Power of Attorney designates an agent (someone you pick) to make your healthcare decisions should you not be able to do so yourself.  Without a Healthcare Power of Attorney, your friends and family members will have to go to court and get a court order authorizing someone to make your healthcare decisions.  It could end up being your parents who you haven’t spoken to in years, or your sibling who makes terrible decisions.  Healthcare decisions are among some of the most personal decisions anyone can make.  Wouldn’t you want someone you know and trust making those decisions for you?

A Healthcare Power of Attorney should contain language waiving healthcare privacy laws (HIPAA) so that your healthcare agent can get a full understanding of your condition before making any healthcare decisions.  A HIPAA waiver can be contained in your Healthcare Power of Attorney, or it can be a separate, stand alone document.  Without a HIPAA waiver, doctors and hospitals may not disclose your healthcare information.  Again, without a HIPAA waiver, your loved ones will end up back in court, fighting over what they think is right for you.  Wouldn’t you rather make those decisions?

3. A Durable Power of Attorney

In our office, we like to call a Durable Power of Attorney a Financial Power of Attorney.  This document authorizes an agent that you choose to make financial decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  Can you imagine what would happen if you were incapacitated?  Could anyone access your bank account to pay your medical bills?  What about your mortgage and utility payments?  How about buying groceries for your kids?  What about your business?  An agent under a Financial Power of Attorney can do those things for you.  This is why a Financial Power of Attorney is one of my top three most important documents you must have.  Your agent can keep your life running smoothly when you can’t do so yourself.

Creating this document can be critical.  You may only be unconscious temporarily, perhaps because of a post-surgery complication, but what about everything that was happening in your life? Your agent can close that house you were selling, deal with a credit card company, or keep your business operating smoothly.  The time and effort to create a Financial Power of Attorney is minimal, but the potential payoff is enormous.

By |2020-03-23T07:37:44-07:00May 22nd, 2012|

An Estate Plan Is More Than Just A Will

The Journal:  “Far too many people think, “I don’t have an estate. I don’t need to do any estate planning.”

But there are more aspects to estate planning than just signing a will. Medical, current financial and other decisions also play an important role.

The differences between the similar sounding living will and living trust often causes confusion. The first is for medical purposes; the other is financial.

A living will provides authority for certain last medical measures when in a terminal condition and has nothing to do with transferring assets or property after death.”

By |2012-05-08T10:29:37-07:00May 8th, 2012|

Starving a Parent to Get Inheritance?

It’s hard to believe that someone would purposely starve a parent in order to collect the inheritance.  I recently read an Estate of Denial article called Slowly Starving Her Mother to Get the Inheritance. Unfortunately, elder abuse cases are not uncommon throughout the country.  Money is a powerful motivator and unfortunately, some people will stoop to the lowest of levels just to collect.

In the article, a woman was making medical decisions on behalf of her aging mother.   The woman, who had suffered from drug and alcohol problems, had very little income.  Her mother, however, had assets worth over $500,000.  When the woman moved in with her mother to act as the mother’s caretaker, the woman began starving her mother.  As time went on, the mother became very ill and lost a significant amount of weight.  After a call from a concerned neighbor, Adult Protective Services got involved and insisted that the mother be moved to a care facility.  Finding the cheapest facility she could find, the woman dumped her mother at the facility with no clothes, and instructions to not give her mother any food or let her out of bed because she was dying.  She also instructed the care facility workers that no one was to talk to any of the mother’s friends or relatives about her mother.  Unbelievably, the woman was actually trying to slowly kill her mother.

Thankfully, in this case there were people who cared enough to realize what was going on and get the mother some help.   Not surprisingly, mom wasn’t dying after all.

How was this woman able to do these horrible things to her mother?  She was named as her mother’s agent under a Healthcare Power of Attorney.  A Healthcare Power of Attorney permits an agent (in this case, the woman) to make healthcare decisions on behalf of the principal (here the mother) in the event the principal is unable to make his or her own decisions.  In this case, the mother was aging and did not have had the ability to make important decisions herself.  However, becoming unable to make one’s own decisions can happen to anyone, not just an aging parent.  There could be an accident, or, in Terri Schiavo’s case, a health emergency that leaves an otherwise healthy person incapacitated.

This mother’s terrible ordeal brings to light to very important issues that everyone should consider:

  1. It is critical that you create a Healthcare Power of Attorney where YOU decide who will take care of you and make decisions on your behalf should you not be able to do so yourself.  YOU are the best judge of who will take the best care of you, and who will make decisions with your best interest in mind.  If you don’t have an estate plan where you select your own agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, the court will pick someone for you.  That’s what happened in Terri Schaivo’s case.  Terri did not have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, so the court named a guardian who could make her healthcare decisions.  The guardian, Terri’s husband, made medical decisions that Terri’s parents did not agree with.  Terri’s parents battled in court for years, claiming that Terri’s husband was making healthcare decisions that Terri would not have wanted.  Unfortunately, since Terri did not have a Healthcare Power of Attorney, Terri had no say as to who would be making her medical decisions.
  2. You must be very careful who you pick to be your healthcare agent.  Like the daughter starving her mother to get at the inheritance, some people may not have your best interest in mind when making critical healthcare decisions.  While many people name a child as their healthcare agent, as seen here, that isn’t always the best idea.  If the child has substance abuse or financial problems, can you really be sure they will look out for YOUR best interest?  If you’re not 100% confident in the person you named as your healthcare agent, consider revising your Healthcare Power of Attorney to name a trusted friend or other relative.  You want to be completely sure that when needed, your healthcare agent will make the best decisions for YOU, since your life may very well be in their hands.
By |2016-12-13T20:33:32-08:00March 7th, 2012|

I Made a Will… Now What?

Question:  I made a Will, now what do I do with it?  Where should I keep it and who should I tell about it?

Answer:  You may have the best drafted, most well thought out Last Will and Testament, but it will be useless if no one can find it.  There is no central database for Wills or estate plans.  This means that the only way your loved ones will know about your Will and where to find it is if you tell them!

First, you should put your original Will and other estate planning documents in a safe place, like a safe deposit box.  Tell the appropriate people that you have an estate plan and it can be located in your safe deposit box.  You probably want to tell your spouse, children, parents or whoever would be the person searching for your estate plan should something happen to you.  We also suggest making copies of your Will and other estate planning documents and giving them to person who you have picked to be responsible for administering your estate (your personal representative).  Alternatively, you can scan the documents to your computer and email them to trusted people, or put the documents on a CD and give the CD to trusted people.   This is an important step, not only with your Will, but also if you have healthcare directives or powers of attorney.  If you created a Healthcare Power of Attorney, make sure you give a copy to the person you designated as your healthcare agent.  That way the person knows they have been nominated as your healthcare agent, and know where to find the document giving them authority to make decisions if there is an emergency situation.  The same is true if you created a Financial Power of Attorney.  By making sure your loved ones know your wishes or how to access them now, you can save them the stress and heartache of trying to find them during a difficult situation.

By |2016-12-13T20:33:36-08:00January 12th, 2012|

New Years Resolution: Create A Basic Estate Plan  Today Your Legal Corner will address “Basic Estate Planning.”

 What will you do with this New Year given? Perhaps you want to lose 10 pounds, make plans for a spring garden, change jobs, travel to Europe or dedicate time to a coveted project. Just think of the possibilities this New Year brings.

 One goal to definitely include is to review or create an estate plan. A basic estate plan consists of completing an inventory of present assets, defining goals, relationships, and realities; and then developing a plan of action.

 Inventory Assets

 Generally, most estate planning begins with an inventory of the assets. If you would like to receive an Inventory Packet, simply request one by email, phone or letter and it will be provided, free of charge.

 The Inventory Packet is a guide used to list assets, state where assets are held, and define preferences and relationships. Once completed, the Inventory Packet will aid in deciding what type of estate plan is needed. The Inventory packet should be kept with the will.

 Goals, Relationships and Realities

 Quite often, the difficult questions have not been answered. While it is difficult to predict the future, estate plans must still be created with goals, relationships and realities in mind. For example, what are your long term goals? Where would you choose to reside as you age? What does retirement look like for you? Will you travel? Will you continue to work? Do you have long-term care insurance?

 Each estate plan should address the possibility of nursing home living. At the very least, have a plan in place as to with whom or where you would reside in the event you are no longer able to live on your own.

 Know the level of services available in the community where you plan to reside to ensure the programs offered will meet your aging needs. For example, not all towns offer senior busing.

Develop an Action Plan

After the packet has been completed, goals, relationships, and realities have been addressed; it is time to develop an action plan.

A basic action plan should contain the completed Inventory Packet as stated above, a Will, a Power of Attorney, and a Living Will. Most importantly, the plan must be firmly grounded in the present day law.

Keep reading here.

By |2012-01-05T11:09:16-08:00January 5th, 2012|

Must Have Documents: Healthcare Directives

Los Angeles Times:  “I could show you case after case,” said Dr. Neil S. Wenger. “I could bet you million-to-1 odds these patients would not want to be in this situation.”

He was talking about patients in critical condition who are “attached to machines, being kept alive” in hospitals, many of them suffering.

A common reason for that, said Wenger, director of UCLA’s Health System Ethics Center, is that fewer than one-third of us make our healthcare wishes known in advance of critical illness or injury. So if we end up comatose after an accident, or with severe memory loss in old age, we’re kept alive, regardless of the cost and regardless of what our wishes might be or how grim the prognosis.

It’s understandable. Nobody wants to think in advance about life ending. In our satisfied state of denial, we want to believe medical advances will keep us healthy until we die in our sleep at a ripe old age. But death doesn’t always come on our terms, and failing to face up to other possibilities can put crushing burdens on loved ones — not to mention that soaring end-of-life medical costs are at the center of the national budget crisis.

“We use healthcare resources far out of proportion to any other country on the planet,” said Wenger, who researches elder care for the Rand Corp. “We need to have a conversation about where society wants to put its resources

[and we] might decide there are certain kinds of life extension that are not as important to us as educating kids and having adequate infrastructure.”

Of course, none of us individually can solve all of these societal issues. But there are things we can do to make our own situations better at the end of life. It’s never easy to think about your own demise, or the demise of those you love, or to start uncomfortable but necessary conversations about death. But since my father’s health began to deteriorate this summer, I’ve talked to many medical people who say we need to get over our fears. Today, I’m passing along their advice. Consider it your guide to the final frontier.

One of the first decisions to make — in advance of any crisis — is whom you want making healthcare decisions if you’re unable to do so on your own because of illness or injury. And that has to be done in writing.

Judy Citko, executive director of the Coalition for Compassionate Care of California, advises completing what’s known as an Advance Healthcare Directive. An easy way to learn more about this is to visit her nonprofit agency’s website,, which is loaded with good information on planning. And no matter what state you live in, you can get an Advance Healthcare Directive by going to Caring Connections at

The California form, which doubles as a living will, is free and can be printed from the website. On it, you can authorize a loved one or someone else to have power of attorney — or serve as your agent — to make healthcare decisions for you if you’re unable. You can indicate whether you want your life “to be prolonged as long as possible” or, alternatively, that you don’t want your life “to be prolonged if the likely risks and burdens of treatment would outweigh the expected benefits.”

Continue reading about healthcare directives.


By |2016-12-13T20:33:37-08:00December 16th, 2011|

Questions You Should Ask Your Estate Planning Attorney

US News & World Report:  Because you’ve worked hard to create a secure and comfortable lifestyle for your family, you’ll want to ensure that you have a sound financial plan that includes trust and estate planning. With some forethought, you may be able to minimize gift and estate taxes and preserve more of your assets for those you care about.

A qualified financial professional and tax professional can help ensure you are minimizing taxes and maximizing gains for your heirs. You can bring this four-part checklist to your initial meeting to discuss how to make your plan comprehensive and up-to-date.

Part 1: Communicating your wishes

•Do you have a will?

•Are you comfortable with the executor(s) and trustee(s) you have selected?

•Have you executed a living will or healthcare proxy?

•Have you considered a living trust to avoid probate?

•If you have a living trust, have you titled your assets in the name of the trust?

Part 2: Protecting your family

•Does your will name a guardian for your children if both you and your spouse are deceased?

•If you want to limit your spouse’s flexibility regarding the inheritance, have you created a Q-TIP trust?

•Are you sure you have the right amount and type of life insurance for survivor income, loan repayment, capital needs, and all estate settlement expenses?

•Have you considered an irrevocable life insurance trust to exclude the insurance proceeds from being taxed as part of your estate?

•Have you considered creating trusts for family gift giving?

Read the rest of this article here.

By |2017-10-07T11:14:46-07:00December 16th, 2011|

5 Big Estate Planning Mistakes You Don’t Want To Make

Forbers:  Applying Murphy’s Law, “If anything can go wrong, it will,” to estate planning is crucial because in this case when something does go wrong, it goes very wrong and you aren’t around to fix it. Murphy’s Law at first glance appears to be overly pessimistic but the original intention of Capt. Edward A. Murphy wasn’t to depress anyone; it was to have a successful outcome. Edward Murphy was an engineer who was involved in the U.S. Army Air Force Aero Medical Laboratory’s project MX-981. Project MX-981 was designed to test the effects of deceleration forces of high magnitude on the human body. When a technician wired all of the strain gauges backwards, Capt. Murphy was heard muttering his famous phrase and the rest is history. Since they assumed mistakes were being made and things would go wrong, the attention to detail was heightened and the inevitable errors were caught. When asked during a press conference how it was that nobody had been severely injured during the tests, Dr. John Stapp credited Murphy’s Law, indicating that it was important to consider all the possible things that could go wrong before conducting a test, and then counteracting them.

A few years ago, I was going to give a financial education workshop to a group of petroleum engineers near Bakersfield, California and I happened to meet someone on the airplane who regularly presented to engineers. He gave me some advice to challenge them to find something wrong in the workshop—a statistic or a calculation with an incorrect formula, something like that. First of all, my flight companion mentioned, they are doing that anyways, but when they don’t find something, credibility instantly increases, and if they do find something, you certainly want to know. We have a lot to learn from the inquiring mind of an engineer and how he approaches his task constantly looking for mistakes, possible problems, and worst-case scenarios. Most people take the approach that “everything is fine.”

Everything is not fine. My experience with estate planning is that there are mistakes, oversights, and omissions all over the place. Over my 25-year career, I have seen countless horror stories. One of the worst cases I encountered was a young woman in her thirties whose mother sadly passed away from breast cancer in her early 50’s. The mother had listed her own mother (the grandmother) instead of her children as the beneficiary on her IRA plan (presumably when the children were minors). Unfortunately, the grandmother was on Medicaid so any funds inherited were to go to the state. I am sure the mother never dreamed that she had the wrong beneficiary.

Having the wrong beneficiary is a very common mistake and when it goes unnoticed, there can be dire consequences to your loved ones. Here are five estate-planning mistakes that you should assume you are making and take immediate steps to fix:

You have the wrong guardian listed for your children: A will is a hand from the grave to give instructions to your state as to who you choose as guardians to care for your children. If you don’t have a will, the state decides who will care for them at a hearing. If you do have a will, review it assuming Murphy’s Law that something will go terribly wrong. Check to see if your original guardian is still valid. The guardian listed for my god-daughter is being asked to transfer with his job from Davis, California to Singapore. If that happens, the parents may want to amend the will and choose another guardian.

Assume your choice will be challenged. A judge is required to act in the best interest of the child so consider also writing out a letter of explanation as to why you chose this guardian. According to this article by Nolo Press, the judge will consider the child’s preference (to the extent it can be ascertained), who will provide the greatest stability and continuity of care, who will best meet the child’s needs, the relationships between the child and the adults being considered for guardianship, and the moral fitness and conduct of the proposed guardians. If you write a letter of explanation, the judge has more information to base his or her decision on.

You have the wrong beneficiary for your IRA or 401(k) from a former employer: As mentioned above, this is a very common mistake. Single parents list the grandparents as beneficiaries when children are minors and never change it when the children reach the age of majority. Couples who divorce never change the beneficiary on their plans even after the divorce is settled. Since the beneficiary information doesn’t show up on statements and the original paperwork isn’t easily accessible, it comes down to “out of sight, out of mind.” The problem is beneficiary accounts like 401(k)s and IRAs bypass probate. Usually that is an advantage, but when there is a mistake, it might not be able to be corrected, and if it can be, it might involve expensive litigation. The parties involved would have to determine your intention and, of course, you aren’t around to speak up for yourself. Assume you have the wrong people in place, and set about putting the right ones in place.

Read the rest of this article here.

By |2016-12-13T20:33:38-08:00December 16th, 2011|

Baby Boomers Aren’t Estate Planning

ABA Journal:  The Associated Press has a story out discussing how most boomers don’t have living wills. They also are light in other estate planning areas. Estate of Denial® is often the first in line willing to point out probate abuse that occurs via the use of instruments like wills, trusts, guardianships and powers of attorney. Living wills and healthcare proxies can bring their complications as well. That said, we also would never want our message to be misconstrued as being against proper estate planning.

Though the current probate system is highly problematic, the answer lies in fixing it, not in the avoidance of action. “The fix” is no easy task, but it is critical if America wants to continue on an ideological path similar to that which has served us well for centuries, a path which respects founding values like property rights, individual liberty and the rule of law.

In the meantime, our recent column, Can Texans (or anyone) protect themselves from probate abuse?, asked “what can people do to protect themselves, their assets and their heirs?” And our answer was a disconcerting “not a whole lot.”

By |2011-11-28T11:47:58-08:00November 21st, 2011|

Common Estate Planning Mistakes And How To Avoid Them

Online Athens:  I want to highlight some of the most common estate planning mistakes I think people routinely make (knowing that I can’t possibly cover them all in one column). You will notice that I’m not going to discuss the estate tax beyond saying that very few people are subject to it and that it can be effectively managed by an attorney and financial planner with expertise.

In my experience, No. 1 and No. 3 are the root causes of the other issues.

1. Failure to plan: I am constantly surprised to see how many people do not have basic estate planning documents in place. The statistics consistently say more than 50 percent of Americans do not have a will, so if you happen to have one, the odds are that one of your neighbors does not.

Estate planning is another one of those areas in financial planning that plays to our desire to procrastinate. The only immediate payoff we have to getting the core documents in place is to quiet that inner voice that constantly says, “I need to take care of this.”

With proper planning, many negative consequences such as not passing your assets as you wish, strained family relationships and even a lawsuit can be avoided.

Simply stated, dying without a will is easy, but picking up the pieces afterward is not. On the other hand, getting a basic will in place should not be complicated.

By |2020-03-23T07:40:15-07:00November 15th, 2011|

Study On The Effects Of End-Of-Life Planning

Wills, Trusts & Estates Prof Blog:  The Journal of the American Medical Association recently published a study focused on end of life care. The study found that patients are more likely to have a higher quality of life and be at home when they die when medical personnel know the patient’s end of life wishes. Additionally, informing medical personnel about a patient’s end of life wishes can save Medicare about $5,600 per person in most regions of the U.S. (end of life treatment accounted for over a quarter of Medicare expenditures in 2006).

By |2016-12-13T20:33:38-08:00November 11th, 2011|

Religion And The Living Will

Forbes:  “If I should remain in a persistent vegetative state for more than 15 years, I would like someone to turn off the TV.”

This was the first item Paul Rudnick listed in his New Yorker parody, “Living Will.” But while his 2005 essay continues to amuse, living wills are no joke. They’re extremely difficult to think about and bring oneself to sign. For some people they also raise cultural and religious issues.

A living will, also known as a healthcare directive or advance directive, is a legal document authorizing someone to “pull the plug.” Of course it doesn’t say so that bluntly. Instead, it’s phrased in terms of withdrawing or withholding life‑sustaining procedures for a terminal condition if death is imminent. The provisions –for example, about not giving you intravenous fluids, using a machine to help you breathe or restarting your heart — are nauseating to contemplate. But unless you sign a living will, friends and family may be left to guess about your wishes or doctors may refuse to carry them out. This just adds to their stress at an already stressful time.

By |2011-11-11T09:44:35-08:00November 11th, 2011|

Bad Money Moves: Not Having An Estate Plan

CBS Boston: We talked about dumb money moves last week and many listeners let me know that there is a whole lot more than the ones we talked about.

Estate planning is not for just for the wealthy. If you have some assets you have accumulated such as your home or retirement accounts or if you have children you have people and things you need to protect.

What estate planning does is allow you to plan. Plan for the day when you are not around to care for the loved ones in your life or plan on how your assets are to be distributed upon your death.  Sounds easy but no one wants to talk about their own mortality or morbidity.

By |2011-10-08T18:27:43-07:00September 29th, 2011|

Healthcare Questions To Ask

Estate of Denial:  When Roberta Battle and her 10 siblings gathered in Washington, D.C., twice each year for their parents’ birthdays, her mother, Helen Harper White, always initiated a family business meeting. The agenda included her and her husband’s wills, their health care wishes, their financial situation — the entire spectrum of issues that experts call end-of-life planning.

When White died in 2009 at age 92, the family was prepared.

“With that background, I should be better prepared than I am myself,” said Battle, 67, a retired consultant. “I haven’t even done my own health care directive. I’ve just told my daughter things.”

For millions of baby boomers and their parents, this conversation is the elephant in the room. And in today’s volatile political and financial landscape, experts say, frank discussions between the generations about money, health care and other end-of-life issues are all the more crucial.

By |2011-09-12T10:16:39-07:00September 12th, 2011|

Basic Estate Planning Issues To Consider

24-7 Press Release:  Thinking about life going on after your death and how your family will cope is never pleasant. But if you do not focus on your estate plan now, there is the possibility that your loved ones will be left with nothing, and may even have some unwanted bills after you pass away.

Without an estate plan, you leave your family with an uncertain future. As plans can differ from person to person and family to family, it is important to meet with an attorney experienced in estate planning to discuss which documents best suit your needs. If you already have an estate plan in place, make sure you regularly review it with your attorney to ensure that it still meets your goals.

By |2016-12-13T20:33:44-08:00August 15th, 2011|

Everyone Needs A Basic Estate Plan

24-7 Press Release:  Estate planning is not only for the super-rich, or even just moderately wealthy individuals. Wills, medical directives and trusts accomplish many things. Whether you need to set up a guardianship for your children or obtain peace of mind for future health care decisions in the event you are incapacitated, estate planning is now a versatile and straightforward way to manage end-of-life planning.

By |2011-08-08T09:29:54-07:00August 8th, 2011|

Never Too Early To Start Planning

North Two months ago a close family friend had a heart attack.

Fortunately he came through it and is on the mend. But the experience — including concerns about who would make medical and financial decisions on his behalf, if needed — served as a reminder that he and we need to get our financial houses in order.

Most of us don’t like to think about these “what if” decisions.

But as more of us become eligible to join AARP or care for aging parents, it is critical that we make sure that we are ready.

And that means preparing key documents — including a will, power of attorney, advanced medical directive and a medical proxy — and keeping each up to date.

By |2017-10-07T11:14:44-07:00August 8th, 2011|
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