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You can detail your end-of-life care wishes in your estate plan

Shortly before her death this year, former First Lady Barbara Bush exercised her wishes for how she would spend whatever time she had left. In a public statement, Mrs. Bush, who had been suffering from pulmonary disease and congestive heart failure, said that she would "not…seek additional medical treatment and will focus on comfort care."

Estate planning attorneys stress that designating whether you want medical treatment and life-prolonging measures to continue when there's little if any chance of recovery is a crucial part of estate planning. As one California attorney says, "I think that, for Barbara Bush, she really wanted to feel at the end of her life loved and cared for, and she was able to remain in her own home." She adds that "for many individuals as they become older this thought of having to go someplace else can [make them feel] incredibly trepidatious."

However, according to one study, less than 30 percent of American's have an advanced health care directive in place to designate their wishes for end-of-life care. That's even less than those who have an estate plan at all (about 42 percent according to another study.)

Comfort care, widely known as palliative care, is defined as "specialized medical care for people with serious illness…focused on providing relief from symptoms and stress of a serious illness" by the Center to Advance Palliative Care.

Californians set up their advanced health care directive to detail their wishes regarding what medical measures they do or don't want taken under various circumstances. Thanks to medical advancements, people's bodies can be kept alive for a considerable length of time after they've lost cognitive function and the chance of ever being who they once were.

Many people don't want to end their lives hooked up to tubes and machines, and they don't want their families to go through the pain and expense involved in that. Your California estate planning attorney can work with you to develop an advanced health care directive that is right for you.

Source: WealthManagement.com, "Ten Planning Lessons from Barbara Bush," Caroline Feeney, May 17, 2018

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