Myth 8: I Can Piece the Estate Planning Puzzle Together Alone

By The Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys

The basic estate plan has several “puzzle pieces”, including a Last Will & Testament, Living Will (Advance Healthcare Directive), Healthcare and Financial Power of Attorney, and often a Living Trust. However, a challenge estate planning attorneys face is that clients do not like thinking of their own mortality or even the potential for a future illness. But, unfortunately, it involves issues we all must face eventually. This blog tackles a couple of these documents that we haven’t covered in previous articles.

A healthcare directive/living will document is designed to express the client’s wishes regarding end-of-life decisions. This document comes into play when the client is no longer able to communicate their wishes and end-of-life decisions must be made. A health care directive will spell out if the client wishes to be kept alive when there is no real hope of recovery from a terminal illness. If your health isn’t deteriorating, this document may seem unnecessary. However, changes in health can occur suddenly and without notice. The question you have to ask is, if a health crisis were to occur do you have your documentation lined up? In the case, Cruzan v. Missouri, the Supreme Court ruled that there must be “clear and convincing” evidence expressing a person’s wishes for removal of life support. Without that expression, such as that in a living will or health care directive, the state can require the person be kept alive through whatever means necessary. In which case, this may not be the wish you have for you or your family.

Sometimes, medical institutions, such as nursing homes, provide residents with forms to complete. However, some nursing homes have vested interest in influencing the resident to complete a form which requires the nursing home resident to be kept alive (and thus, a continuing resident of the nursing home). If you want to be kept alive or want life support withdrawn, that is your choice. Our role as estate planners is to make sure that you and your family’s accurate wishes are memorialized in a correct plan.

Another opportunity we offer is that many of our clients use their attorney as a healthcare representative which making their wishes clearly known to healthcare providers.

Do you notice any gaps in your complete plan? Call Walker Lambe at 919-493-8411 for a complimentary initial consultation.


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