Plan Ahead to Ensure Your Wishes are Carried Out

The importance of proactively making end-of-life preparations cannot be emphasized enough. Proper planning in the form of wills, powers of attorney, advance directives, and in some circumstances trusts can save the whole family money and stress when those documents are needed. Without them, medical and financial situations may turn into crisis or may not be handled in the way the person would have wanted.

Many people postpone these plans, thinking there will always be time later to get their affairs in order. Others may be paralyzed by thoughts of death or incapacity. The sad reality is that no one is guaranteed time; accidents and sudden illnesses can destabilize lives, and failing to plan in advance compounds the chaos. That’s why it’s so important for every adult to get their documents in place and keep them updated. Most people have wishes and thoughts about where and to whom their assets are distributed and what they do or do not wish to happen at or near the end of their life. Lack of preparation and planning means that these wishes likely will not be honored. In addition, it causes strain on the people who are left to sort things out. An example of this is the story of Debbie.

Debbie was a teacher who had been retired for several years. She was aging alone. She never married and had no family around. She did have a small circle of friends. After retirement, Debbie’s health progressively declined, and she had more and more difficulty caring for herself. After a few years, Debbie passed away in her home.

Previously, Debbie had engaged in conversations with a handful of her friends, telling them her wishes for the distribution of certain assets and personal possessions. Because of these conversations, these friends each thought she had made the proper preparations to ensure these wishes would be followed. Unfortunately, Debbie had created none of the necessary end-of-life documents that would allow her wishes to be followed. After death, her friends were left trying to assemble a puzzle without all the pieces. Her burial was prolonged, and what was left over after settling her estate and paying for her funeral would not be distributed in the ways Debbie wanted. This scenario can, however, be avoided.

If you or your elder loved one have not made end-of-life preparations, make time to do so as quickly as possible. A qualified elder law attorney can help guide you in what you should be doing and can make sure the proper documents are in place to carry out your wishes regarding your health, the care you want (or don’t want) to receive, and who should receive your money and possessions. Planning ahead will help you and your family rest easy, knowing that when the situation arises you will all be prepared with the right tools.

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