Legal Talk – Living Wills

Make sure you check the laws in your state!

A living will is where you designate what you want to happen in case you are in certain situations that could mean living beyond what you would want to.  For example, you could state that if you were in a permanent vegetative state you would not want to live.  There are many options for this so you will need to make the choices that are right for you.  Thought should be given to the person you are selecting as some people due to religious reasons might not be able to follow through with your choices.  Whomever you choose should be consulted prior to this decision and have a complete understanding of what your wishes would be in any situation.  The person that you designate would not actually physically do anything to end life but would be able to give the document to the medical personnel.

Both medical power of attorney and the living will should be given to your medical team.  We gave a copy to mom’s doctors and the hospital.  When we moved her here, we than gave copies to her new medical team including the local hospital.  If there becomes a nursing home involved, they will want one too.

Living wills are a very serious decision and should be given a great deal of thought.  Do not rush into a decision and do not assume just because you are younger that you do not need one.

Communicate with other family members – They need to know what is going on.

It is critical to communicate with the other family members.  They need to know what is going on too.  It is equally hard on them as they want to be able to help but many can’t due to circumstances – maybe they live somewhere else, health issues, jobs, family commitments, etc.  Just because they are not there does not mean they do not care.

I set up a Facebook group for my brothers, kids, nieces and nephews so that I could posts about the good and the bad.  Naturally I also phoned them but sometimes something came to me in the middle of the night or when they might be at work.  It was also hard to remember who I told what to so I was repeating myself.

Involve them in decisions.  It is not all on your shoulders.  It will make you all feel better if it is a shared mental task.

When my mother-in-law was dying, we took a notebook up and whomever was there at the time would write down what the doctors or nurses said or funny things Ann said.  We put down different feelings and then when the next person came in, they could just read down through it.  I still look at it from time to time.

Whatever works for you, communicate as a family.  This is a hard time for everyone and you all need each other.

Legal/Medical – Do not resuscitate order – DNR

 

Make sure you check with your medical team to make sure this is true in your state!

DNR (do not resuscitate) is another option you need to think of.  This is when you are having a heart attack or other medical emergency and dictates whether you want heart compressions done.  Mom did want to be revived and we went along with her wishes until she was hospitalized when she was in her 80s.  The doctor told us his opinion was that if Mom ‘coded’ it would kill her to have the compressions done.  He stated that her bones would break and if she did live she would be in excruciating pain or have her lungs punctured.  I fought it for quite a while but finally made the tough decision to follow through with his advice.

 

Think it through and do what is right for your family.  This decision is hard either way.

Legal – Power of Attorneys

Once again – I am not a lawyer.  This is my understanding.  Consult your attorney for clarification in your area.

There are two different power of attorneys – one for medical care and one for financial.  You need both regardless of your age.  Both can be changed at any time and need to be if there are changes in the people involved.  The people named do not have to be family members.  Usually there are two named in case one is not available.  Whomever you choose should be consulted prior to this decision and have a complete understanding of what your wishes would be in any situation.

Medical care power of attorney is so that someone can make decisions if you are unable to.  This does not mean just when you are old or have dementia.  What if you were in a car accident, had a critical illness, etc?  It is straight forward and says who can make those decisions.

Financial power of attorney is so that someone can make financial decisions for the same reasons above.  You can limit what the person can do but mom’s basically said I could do whatever I needed to do.

Both medical power of attorney and the living will should be given to your medical team.  We gave a copy to mom’s doctors and the hospital.  When we moved her here, we then gave copies to her new medical team including the local hospital.  If there becomes a nursing home involved, they will want one too.

Bottom line – you need to have them.  An attorney can draw up a straight forward one without much time.  It literally could be a life saver and is worth the money.

Legal – Wills – We all need them.

Once again – I am not a lawyer.  This is my understanding.  Consult your attorney for clarification in your area.

We all should have these in place but if you are like me, you probably don’t.  Everyone should have a will especially when kids are involved. Then as life changes, we should always keep them updated.

My mother did not have a will.  She just assumed that everything would be divided between the four kids. So, we made an appointment and went to the lawyer.  For a reasonable amount of money she wrote out a basic will.  I thought we had it all covered with a few specific items going to my brothers that had meaning for them and the balance divided between all us kids equally.

The lawyer advised to change the beneficiaries on the life insurances to the estate of MOM.  But, mom didn’t tell me there were multiple life insurance policies.  I changed them on the two I knew about.  Now, we have found others so I may have messed up the funds without meaning to.  Also, her checking account and savings account were not set up right so they might revert to the person on the account with mom.  The lawyer has to talk to the bank and see exactly how they were set up.

It is very important to understand the differences between and, and/or, payable upon death, with rights of survivorship, etc so that you make sure everything is written they way the person wants. What did she actually mean to happen we will never know.

Bottom line, make sure you understand exactly how everything is titled (like vehicles and houses), know about all the life insurance policies and accounts (IRA, CDs, 401K, etc.) and how they are set up.  Have your lawyer go over exactly what will happen when your loved one passes so they understand it.  By doing this, you can make sure that their final wishes are carried out.