The holidays have arrived, so Merry Christmas, Happy Channukah (unless you are the type who goes by "Happy Hannukah"), an Enlightened Bodhi Day, a festive Pancha Ghanapati, a Fruitful Kwanzaa, and, of course, Festivus for the rest of us. Whatever it is you celebrate inside your home and the joy you take with your neighbors sharing their traditions, I hope you will take the time this season to discuss the following topic with your loved ones: Advanced Directives. I gave you this warning over Thanksgiving but here you have a second shot at it.
If you were taken to a hospital, unconscious, who would the doctors call to make important decisions? Suppose that person cannot be reached? Or, suppose this happened to your children; how would the hospital know how to reach you? Suppose you have adult children and one was taken to a hospital. And you called to find out about them. What would the hospital staff tell you? Do you know the answers to these questions? You should.
Our goal is to help you, our friends and clients, Master Your Financial Universe. For our financial planning clients, this is one of the many areas we touch. But we want everyone to consider taking steps in this regard.
Here are a few stories you can tell over your holiday dinner to lighten the mood:
“Bob was severely injured in a car accident and remained in a coma for 13 months. When he regained consciousness, he remained incompetent and was kept alive with a feeding tube and other medical technologies. His wife asked the hospital to remove the artificial means of support, believing Bob would NOT want to be kept alive with such treatments. But his mother strongly disagreed, claiming her son should be kept alive in case medical science advanced enough to restore him to full life.
The two no longer speak to each other nor even enter the same room. Their attorneys are happily engaged in arguing the case before the state court.”
- Do you think Bob appointed a representative (and successor or alternate) to speak on his behalf? Had Bob executed a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care, his appointed representative would make the decision and avoid the stress, delay, and cost of this dispute.
- Did Bob execute a Living Will? If so, then the ultimate life and death decisions would be his and not placed on a loved one to decide.
Or this one:
“Tom and Marie live in New Jersey; their only daughter, Sonia, lives in New York, hoping to become a waitress, while taking small parts in off-Broadway productions. Early in December, Sonia’s roommate calls frantically saying there had been an accident during rehearsal and their daughter was taken to Mt. Sinai Hospital. Marie hangs up the phone and dials (of course, no one actually "dials" anymore) the hospital to find out what’s happening with their beloved child. She gets patched through to the emergency room, but the nurse on duty says, “I am terribly sorry, but I cannot release any information. I am not permitted to confirm whether there someone here by that name.”
- Had Tom and Marie raised the question with Sonia, when she was home for Thanksgiving, about whether she created Advanced Medical Directives?
- Do they know whether she appointed one or both of them as her health care attorney?
- Do they have a copy of these forms?
- Does Sonia carry anything identifying how to reach her parents in case of emergency (ICE)?
A Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care:
- Authorizes someone to make medical decisions on your behalf;
- Allows for evaluation of specific proposed treatments;
- Tells medical authorities who to contact and who you have granted access to information.
A Living Will shares your decision whether to decline medical treatments that might sustain your life, but which would not restore you to active or conscious living.
- Will relieve your loved ones of having to make that decision;
- Protects medical personnel from bearing the legal consequences of a decision that you would have wanted anyway.
In case of an emergency (ICE), having a legal document stored in a vault or in a drawer is no better than not having one at all. You need to be able to grant the emergency personnel access to these documents even when you may be unconscious. It is also wise to include a current list of contacts along with your fully executed legal documents.
Conclusion: Maintain current advanced medical directives – 1) Health Care Power of Attorney and 2) Living Will.
At Keystone Asset Management Strategies, what we’re about, in a word, is we Help You Master Your Financial Universe.
We do this by sharing concepts like this making sure you follow through, because we believe that without successful implementation, all else is just talk.
Life doesn't take place on the summit, but on the journey. We can help. This is what we do.