It is not always an easy conversation to have but make sure that your loved ones understand what you want when your time draws close is extremely important. Clarity and awareness of these wishes are of the utmost importance before you meet with your estate planning attorney.
I grasp that for most people, this is not an easy topic to discuss, but I’m not a mind reader and it’s important that I know exactly what you want when I prepare for your future. Once clients and I talk about their last wishes, I always seem to stump them with the following question, “do your family or friends know what you want to happen to you and your finances if you’re incapacitated or deceased, and are your wishes clear and understandable?”
After a long pause, I generally get, “I’m not sure.”
This is okay, it happens to everyone,
and you are not alone.
On a personal note, I can recount the experience my friend’s family had in trying to deal with their grandfather’s illness and their attempts to interpret his wishes about the end of his life. This experience made me realize that having a living will isn’t enough — we need to be sure that we have clear and specific instructions, and that we have considered a variety of scenarios as we try to instruct our loved ones to make decisions for us in a medical crisis.
Here are some tips that might make this conversation a bit easier:
1. Phrases like “terminal illness” are vague at a time when new treatments and drugs can keep patients with a terminal disease alive for months or years. Make sure that you are more specific when discussing with your family.
2. Today, a basic estate plan, generally, includes a Living Will or Advanced Directive. However, these documents are sometimes filled with vague statements about death being a natural part of life, and “heroic measures”, which can make it difficult for your family to interpret in their time of grief. Again, specificity is important. Being vague and dancing around the issue might solve some awkward conversations now, but that ambiguous language could lead to some devastating actions in the future.
3. Spread out the conversation. Even after creating a Living Will or Life Support Statement, I always advise my clients to verbally communicate to their loved ones about the different types of situations that can arise and what they might want to be done in those cases. These conversations can be heavy and sad discussions. Chop them up so that they do not need to be a big, formal, one-time thing. If something is in the news about end-of-life care, or if a friend or relative is going through something similar, find a way to discuss your final wishes in that greater context. It can be easier for your family to remember this way, “Oh, I remember when Aunt Mary was in the final stages of breast cancer, mom said she wouldn’t want another surgery.”
4. Learn more. In addition to your end-of-life care, your wishes for your end-of-life celebration, aka funeral, are also important. There are many free booklets online that help you document these wishes. One in particular that has been helpful to some of my clients can be found at https://toliveon.com. This website outlines practical advice on how your remains should be treated and how your end-of-life ceremony should be conducted.
For more information regarding the preparation of a Living Will or Advanced Directives, please contact the Law Office of Jason R. Ebacher at (978) 269-4485, or look us up online at ebacherlaw.com as we can provide invaluable advice with planning for you and your loved ones.