Planning for Family
Friends who had been together 40 years, unable to marry, were waiting for retirement to finalize their will. The breadwinner died un-expectantly weeks before retirement. Without a will, her family was the legal beneficiary, evicted the surviving partner and took the house and all the assets. Our surviving friend was destitute. This could have been prevented with a will or living trust.
A testamentary will is a legal document that spells out how you want your affairs and assets handled and distributed after you die. It can include a directive on how you want your funeral or memorial to be held. If your estate is valued less than $11.7 million you will not be charged an estate tax and you do not need to file a tax return. A will is processed through the probate court which may take 6-18 months to sort out and cost 2-4% of the estate assets.
If you die without a will, called intestate, the state gets involved, and will oversee the distribution of your assets. If you have minor children and die intestate, the court will appoint a guardian.
A Revocable living trusts is created to protect assets from probate and ease of transferring property and assets to beneficiaries called trustees. The trust is revocable and may be changed by the creator, the truster, who maintains ownership while alive. After death of the trustor the property passes to its beneficiaries immediately without court or attorney involvement.
Once a trust has been formed with the assistance of an attorney it can readily be amended. A trust protects your assets and allows property to be distributed as you have declared.
Life is fragile and undetermined; care enough for your family, in whatever form it takes, to have your affairs in order.
Unfortunately, not talking about death and dying will not prevent it from happening. You can have a great deal of control of your dying experience by deciding what treatment you want or do not want. There are several forms and directives which are helpful for care takers and family. It is best to make decisions in advance of the need and discuss them with loved ones and your power of attorney for health. Your health care provider may be useful in helping fill out these forms which are available on the internet.
Power of Attorney for Health Care: authorizes someone (an agent) to make decisions on their behalf when they are incapacitated.
Advanced directives are legal documents which specifies actions to be taken regarding their medical condition if you are unable to make decisions because of illness or incapacity.
Included in the directive would be the name of the Power of Attorney for Health care, the level of medical care and comfort desired, preferred location for care and funeral plans.
POLST: The Physician Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment is similar to advanced directives except it is written in the form of medical orders. It may be a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order but provides more direct guidance such as: CPR yes or no; degree of medical intervention, antibiotics treatment yes or no, what type nutrition, medical goals. This form is completed with a health care provider, may be revoked at any time but provides guidance in any emergency.
Options in the End
Hospice: Hospice is program of care, funded through Medicare, Medicaid and insurance programs to provide comfort care for quality of life during the last six months of life. Hospice benefits include access to a multidisciplinary treatment team specialized in end of life care and can be accessed in the home, long term care facility or the hospital. Hospice includes pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, twenty-four-hour/seven-day-care.
Compassionate Choices is a program approved in 10 jurisdictions, to provide care and comfort to terminally ill patients including medical assistance to aid in dying. Only those with terminal illness from which they are expected to die within six months, who are mentally competent and who can physically give themselves medication and are over 18 years of age, are able to participate in this program. The client has the last say up to the very end. More information is available on the internet.