Jason’s mom has to go for hip replacement surgery. She is in extreme pain and the surgery is the only thing that might help. She is 85 years old and has had heart problems for years. She knows that she has executed a Health Care Directive, but has no idea where it is. She tries to remember and through the pain and somewhat of a fog due to the painkillers she’s self-administering (and not clearly remembering when she took the last one), she and Jason search for the document. It gets to be time to go to the hospital and they still have not found the document. Jason’s mom undergoes the surgery without a Health Care Directive in her medical chart.
Jane’s dad has cancer. He had surgery and is undergoing chemotherapy. He gives Jane a legal document naming her the Successor Trustee to his Revocable Living Trust (he is currently the Trustee) and provides instructions for how she is to administer the funds in the trust to take care the family. Jane takes the opportunity to request that she no longer be one of his Health Care Agents. Her feelings about removing someone from life support have changed and she feels that she will have difficulty following his wishes in that regard. They agree her father’s best friend would be a better choice.
Would you rather be Jason or Jane?
Both are facing the mortality of a parent. Jason has undergone a fruitless, frustrating search for his mother’s documents while noticing that she’s a little “out of it” due to the extreme pain and her self-medicating. While he waits, he is faced by the uncertainty of what happens if there are complications during the surgery due to his mother’s heart condition.
On the other hand, Jane feels her father’s love in his actions of showing how he wants her to take care of the family as successor trustee. She also expresses her love for her father and her family by sharing that she does not feel that she will be comfortable fulfilling his wishes as his Health Care Agent.
What can else can we take away from these scenarios?
- Know where your documents are kept and tell close family members so that they can be found when needed. Ask close family members where their documents are kept. If Jason had been told earlier where the “Important Papers” were kept, his mother would not have had to try to remember through the pain and medications. While your Will should be secure, such as in a fire safe, your other documents need only be in safe place. Too often a stack of “important papers” in an envelope from a lawyer’s office gets put in a “decide later” pile. To help our clients with this, we put their documents in a binder that can be kept on a bookshelf.
- NOW is the time – later can be too late. In the case of an accident or sudden illness, there is no time for remembering, searching, or informing your loved ones of the location of your documents. Without a plan, each family member’s understanding of your wishes can be fertile ground for arguments. We help our clients develop a documented plan that helps avoid and prevent family arguments, leaving a legacy of peace to their family.
- Planning is a gift of love and an opportunity to define what you want to leave behind. Planning shows that you care what happens with your family. But in addition to taking care of your assets and guardian choices, your loved ones will most likely want to remember who you were and your special qualities. We help our clients preserve their personal stories, values and family traditions so that your loved ones have something tangible to remember the most important aspects of your life.
If you’d like to learn more about Health Care Proxy Directives and estate planning, call our office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because of the importance of medical directives and proxies, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.