6 Decisions to Make Before You Die

One of the most difficult conversations to have with your children is the conversation where you let them know about your arrangements following your death. They simply don’t want to hear about it because they want you here, and are reluctant to face the inevitable.  However, this conversation should take place, and here are 6 decisions to speak to them about – the sooner the better.

#1. Medical Power of Attorney also known as a health care proxy or a health care surrogate. This is the document that gives someone, whom you have appointed, the power to make medical decisions on your behalf if and when you are unable to do so.  It is your doctor who will determine if you are unable to make these medical decisions.  The person you choose is most often a family member whom you have carefully selected.

#2.  Living will.  This is a document that should accompany your medical power of attorney.  This important document is a written statement concerning what treatments and medical measures you do and don’t want undertaken in the case that you are incapacitated. Some examples are a patient being kept alive by a ventilator or feeding tube. Some people are strongly opposed to these measures and others want to be kept alive at all costs. Tremendous family battles could result in you not having this document, or the decision will be in the hands of someone who does not share the patient’s values. This document also saves taxpayers’ dollars. There could be a 10% savings for Medicare if more people had a living will.

#3.  HIPAA form. Whoever is named in a HIPAA form has access to your private medical records.  It could be the person you have appointed in your medical power of attorney or you might want additional people on this form so that there can be a joint evaluation of your medical decisions. The HIPAA form can also help your family members’ physicians evaluate their own medical history.

#4.  Last will and testament. This is the document that determines what will happen to your property and assets after you die. Here is where you name the heirs who will receive your real estate, jewelry, savings, investments, and all other assets. You can also will your digital assets such as blogs and social media accounts and your password. All last wills and testaments name an “executor” who is responsible for making certain that your will is carried out. If there is no last will, a court makes the decision who receives the assets.  A will also appoints a guardian for your children, if they are minors. And, more and more common, a will puts aside a set amount of money to properly care for any pets you may have at the time of your death. It determines who will become the owner and will make sure that the animal receives all the medical attention that it may need.

#5. Financial power of attorney. This document gives the person you choose the right to access your finances, and goes into effect immediately after signing. This gives a trustworthy person the right to help you in the handling of all your expenses such as medical bills, tax returns and bank withdrawals. In other words, a person in charge of handling all your finances, if you should become incapacitated.  Without this document, the court would select a guardian after a very costly legal battle.

#6. Letter of instruction. In spite of not needing an attorney for this document, it is a good thing to have for guidance for your family members.  It is here that you will convey how to conduct your funeral service, whether you want burial or cremation, and who should be contacted after you die.  It is also a good idea to prepay your funeral so that family members aren’t overwhelmed with all the decision making at a time of grief.

In conclusion, with the creation of these documents you are giving a final gift to your loved ones.  You are giving them the gift of easily made decisions at a time when they are experiencing extremely sad emotions.

For help in preparing all these documents, call the lawyers at Kabb Law: Firm 216-991-KABB (5222).