Thinking about, much less planning, for the inevitable end of life can be extremely uncomfortable for many people. Because of this, crucial aspects of estate planning are often put off or neglected. After all, the future can seem so very far away, so why worry unnecessarily now? In reality, estate planning is not something that should be delayed.
Most people in California can still recall the case of Terri Schiavo. Schiavo made national news when her husband and parents were at odds over the issue of life support. After suffering severe and permanent brain damage, Shiavo languished in a vegetative state while being sustained through a feeding tube and other artificial measures. Schiavo’s husband insisted that his wife would not have wanted to be on any type of life support and wanted to have the tube removed, while her parents opposed the removal and instead said they would continue to care for her. The battle over her care lasted for years, all of which could have been avoided by an advanced health care power of attorney.
While virtually no one likes to think of becoming seriously ill or dying, the reality is that these things happen on a daily basis to the young and old alike. Even for people who have no strong feelings one way or the other toward certain medical interventions, common estate planning tactics can still help loved ones avoid disagreements and battles over care. A power of attorney for health care can designate one individual to be in charge of all medical decisions in the event that a person becomes incapable of making those choices for him or herself. Even if there are no straightforward requests for care, many people still choose to include brief guidelines that the designated person can look to for further guidance.
In this sense, estate planning is about far more than just death and assets; it is also about life and a how a person chooses to live it. For some, the thought of being kept alive on artificial life support is unsettling, while it is expressly desired for others. Either way, the decision can be hard without any input from the person it will affect. Indeed, helping California families and loved ones avoid making these types of tough decisions is perhaps one of the most comforting aspects of the entire process.
Source: wealthmanagement.com, “What are the Risks of Waiting to Create an Estate Plan?”, Kyle Krull, Jan. 4, 2016