In general, Americans are very uncomfortable talking about end-of-life issues. It can be hard for people to think about (and plan for) their own death, let alone the death of their loved ones. I get it.
Yet by not discussing these issues, you are leaving your future caregivers (most often your adult children) in an impossible position. Many people are taken completely off-guard when their elderly parents start to decline.
Because we don’t discuss these issues ahead of time, caregivers are often left unprepared for the life changes they are about to experience. Depending on the speed and amount of decline, a caregiver might have to dedicate a significant portion of their life to the growing needs of their parents.
Simple legal planning can help to avoid these issues. You can pave the way now, so that life is easier when incapacity, disability, or ultimately death occurs. Here are a few key ways to prepare:
- Have “the talk.” It doesn’t matter if you are the impending caregiver or the person who will need care, you should make time to sit down and talk. This should happen way before the elderly person starts experiencing memory loss, so the sooner the better! You’ll need to discuss the senior’s wants, needs, health issues, financial resources, and preferences for the amount of medical intervention you/they want at the end.
- Have legal documents prepared. Work with an estate planning attorney in Marietta to prepare important legal, financial, and healthcare documents – and keep them updated! Do this immediately if the senior is showing signs of increasing health issues. If you wait until the senior is showing signs of mental decline, they could be declared incompetent to make their own decisions and it will be too late for them to sign any new documents.
- Review financial information. Be sure you review the senior’s financial statements and understand their income and expenses. Knowing how to access this information will be critical to handling their affairs if they are unable.
- Research elder care options. Review the options and determine what living situations the elder person is comfortable with in advance. Determine their preferences for hospital, rehabilitation, nursing home, assisted living, and/or independent living communities as well as options for memory care, home care, and even hospice.
Having these discussions in advance are uncomfortable, but knowing this information will save more stress and heartache than you can imagine. For additional information on how to prepare for end-of-life transitions, contact our Marietta estate lawyer and elder law attorneys at 770.425.6060.
As a Marietta estate planning attorney, I’m often asked, “what is exactly is a health care directive or living will?
Basically, an Advance Healthcare Directive in Georgia, sometimes commonly known as a Living Will, is a legal document that permits someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This type of document is commonly associated with the decision of maintaining or removing life support for a critically ill loved one, but Health Care Directives and Living Wills cover far more than that.
Specifically, a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care, or “Living Will,” allows someone to:
– Decide if you want your life to continue on life support or if you want to have them withhold treatment. (a/k/a “pulling the plug”)
– Pick a person to make health care decisions for you if you are unable to do so.
– Make decisions about pain relief options.
– Decide if you want your organs to be donated.
– To make any other decisions about your health care and treatment.
As you can see, a Health Care Directive or a Living Will is essential for someone looking to have their wishes carried out in the event they die or become incapacitated.
The person you select to make the decisions for you is called your Healthcare agent. The agent will be acting on your behalf so their role is very important. When you are selecting your agent, you should consider a few things:
-He or she must be over the age of 18.
-He or she must be reliable and readily available in case something happens to you.
-He or she must be emotionally able to make end of life decisions for you.
-You should consider adding two to three alternative agents in the event that the primary agent is unable or unwilling to make the critical decisions.
-If you appoint your spouse as your agent, and your marriage is dissolved or annulled, your agent’s authority is automatically revoked, unless you specify otherwise.
-If you are pregnant, your health care directive will not be honored.
While a health care directive can give someone the right to make all healthcare decisions for you, it is also possible to limit authority by clearly defining what their scope of power includes. For example, you may decide that your healthcare agent has the authority to decide what type of pain relief you are given, but limit their ability to decide whether to “pull the plug.” It is important to discuss this with an experienced Georgia estate planning attorney to make sure that you are very clear and specific in defining this scope.
Once a Georgia Advance Health Care Directive is signed, dated, and notarized or witnessed by two qualified persons, the Health Care Directive is valid forever, unless and until the individual revokes it. If the primary Agent refuses to follow the instructions dictated, the alternative Agents will be called upon to act on behalf of you, which is why it is important to name alternative Agents.
One final key point to consider when choosing your agent is that the person should actually want to have this responsibility. There are people who do not feel comfortable making such important decisions – even for their own spouse. Therefore, it is critical to have a conversation with whomever you are considering to ensure that they can and will able to make the decisions that you want them to make.
Setting up an Advance Directive for Health Care that truly protects your wishes in the event of your incapacity starts by meeting with a Marietta estate planning lawyer. Here at Georgia Estate Plan : Worrall Law LLC, we’ve made that process easier than ever by offering free Georgia Family Treasures Planning Sessions (normally $750) each month to readers of our blog. So call 770-425-6060 today to secure your spot.
When making an estate plan and Last Will and Testament, many people have a difficult time deciding who should be the Executor of their estate. Oftentimes they will consider naming Co-Executors – two or more people who serve as executor of the estate. Each Co-Executor named in your Last Will and Testament will have authority over your estate, and therefore must collaborate and work together to ensure your estate is settled in accordance with your wishes. But is this the right choice for you? Below are some pros and cons to naming Co-Executors in your Will.
Pros for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate
One of the reasons Co-Executors are named in an estate is if there are multiple types of assets that need to be handled. The best example of this would be if you owned digital assets along with tangible assets, yet the Executor you want to name for your estate would not be correctly suited to handle digital assets. In this case, you may want to name a Co-Executor specifically to look after your estate’s digital assets. The same could be said for real estate or automotive properties. Marietta Will and Trust lawyers often bring this scenario up with their clients and encourage them to carefully consider their options when naming Co-Executors to settle their estate.
Cons for Naming Co-Executors of an Estate
Most Marietta Will and Trust lawyers advise their clients to think very carefully about the dynamics that exist between the people they would name as Co-Executors. Many times the stresses of being named Co-Executor can lead to fighting, and in some cases litigation, if the Co-Executors do not see eye-to-eye. In addition, if it’s possible that the Co-Executors may not work well together or will have difficulty carrying out their duties because they live in different areas, you may want to consider naming just one Executor. Proper planning and communication with your Executor / Co-Executors may solve some of these problems, but once again it is suggested that those considering naming Co-Executors weigh the potential benefits against the probable risks.
It should also be noted that in some cases, even if Co-Executors are named in a Will, one or more of the Co-Executors will resign from their position in an attempt to make the process a bit easier by reducing the amount of people involved in authoritative roles. This is something that Marietta Will and Trust lawyers discuss with their clients during the estate planning process, so their clients are aware of the different possibilities that may happen once they’ve passed.
If you have any questions about naming Co-Executors in your Last Will and Testament, or if you want your estate plan reviewed to make sure it is in accordance with your wishes, please contact us at 770.425.6060 to set up a complimentary Georgia Family Treasures Planning Session.