When times are good, the family is growing, business is booming and your investments are multiplying, it’s easy to forget about the what-ifs. But that is exactly when you should consider estate planning and creating a living will. This is the only way to ensure that everything you want is executed the way you want. It dictates your wishes beyond just finances.
Although creating, executing and/or managing a will is up to an attorney, it is something a well-rounded Financial Advisor has experience with. Often an attorney will be the doer and not the educator. Your Financial Advisor can help you prepare for the future by discussing options and documenting your wishes. It’s about more than just managing money.
A Living Will to Complement Estate Planning
Although financial and asset management are often thought of first when talking about estate planning, healthcare management is an important piece of the puzzle. Some may argue THE most important part, which is outlined in a living will.
What would happen if you became debilitated tomorrow and someone had to make healthcare decisions for you? Do you know who that would be? Does that person know his or her responsibility? And what do you see as those decisions?
These are undoubtedly tough questions. A living will answers these questions by documenting the type of medical care you would like to receive if you cannot communicate this yourself. It typically takes effect when a doctor certifies that you are incapacitated.
While you can outline specific circumstances, you can also keep the will broad, thereby guiding your health care providers and your family in any medical situation. For example, you can note if you ever want to be resuscitated or if there are specific treatments or procedures you would never want.
The Essentials in a Living Will
Save your family some stress and make sure part of your estate planning and living will includes creating advanced directives.
When determining your directives, consider the quality of life you would want. The ability to eat, communicate, groom yourself and interact with others are often seen as the primary barometers of a life worth living. Since these are broad quality of life details and not medical, your Financial Advisor can guide you along and document the discussion, especially if you are already discussing estate planning and your financial future.
You also want to consider a health care proxy or surrogate. This is the person you name to make medical decisions on your behalf. You do not have to name a proxy, however if no one is named one may be assigned (and it may not be whom you would have chosen).
Beyond the basics, you may also want to consider details that would enhance your comfort at the end of life. These can be details like if music should be played in your room, if there are any symbolic or sentimental items you’d like around you and if you’d like to be visited by a religious figure, such as a priest or rabbi.
To make your wishes as simple and straightforward as possible, you may want to enlist the help of a document like Five Wishes. This document is one of the most used directive and living will documents in the United States, and it can accompany any estate planning. It may also serve as a way to talk to your family about your wishes and create a jumping off point to create a living will with your attorney.
Q&A with Nikki Polistina, CFP
Stableford receives numerous questions on the living will topic each year. We’ve asked Nikki Polistina, Director of Client Relations and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ to respond to a few of the most frequently asked questions.
01. At what age should you make a living will?
Any person over age 18 should create a living will. Unexpected end-of-life situations can happen at any age, so it’s important for all adults to prepare.
02. Why is a living will so important?
It ensures that your family members and healthcare professionals understand your end-of-life wishes and treat you accordingly. By planning ahead, you can get the medical care you want, avoid unnecessary suffering and relieve caregivers of decision-making burdens during moments of crisis or grief. You can also help reduce confusion or disagreement about the choices you want people to make on your behalf. It is important that you make these decisions for yourself and not leave them to anybody else.
03. How do you help clients with the living will process?
Although Stableford does not draft the living will, we want to understand what our clients’ wishes are and document them. We want to be able to help family members during a stressful time and to help ensure that our clients have their wishes followed.
04. How does Stableford incorporate the Living Will into the planning process?
It is part of the overall estate plan review – we want to make sure our clients have all the appropriate estate planning documents in place including last will and/or trust and durable power of attorney for both medical and financial decisions in addition to a living will.
Making a Clear Plan
Answering the tough questions now, before a diagnosis or accident happens, is paramount to making a clear plan and communicating it. Without a plan, you may leave your loved ones with heart wrenching, impossible decisions.
Also keep in mind that without a living will, state law determines who can make decisions for you. And if that person does not know your wishes, you may end up with care that you would not have chosen for yourself.
While it’s a lot easier to manage money than to assist clients in a tragic time, it is part of planning for the future and should therefore be part of the conversation with your Financial Advisor. Discussions about a living will and directives are part of comprehensive estate planning and empower you, the client. To learn more contact Stableford by calling 480.493.2300, or contact us online.