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Did you know that 40% of people over 45 don’t have a will? Below the age of 45, the percentage of slackers is even higher. Even caregivers who know their loved one has limited time is hesitant to bring up the living will and will discussion.

Is is because we think we won’t die–or we’re just slackers that put things that are a hassle or uncomfortable off–we’ll do it another day? I’m going with a little bit of both, but leaning toward the slacker scenario. Procrastination is human nature.

It’s not all about the will and who’s going to get your money.

As important as it is to spell out who gets the silver service, I think it’s even more important to say how you want to die. Let the relatives squabble over your stuff–who cares–you won’t be able to make them happy no matter how fair you try to be.

But saying how you die is smart–selfish in some ways maybe, but smart. 

That’s where the Five Wishes come into play. The Five Wishes is a document in which you get to state if you want a feeding tube, if you want a respirator to help you breathe, if you want pain meds, if you want a DNRorder (do not resuscitate) if want to die at home, or be taken to a hospital or hospice center. You might also include whether you would prefer to be buried or cremated, placed in the cemetary with your relatives, or scattered off the back of a sail boat. You get to decide whether you’d like the Beatles played at an informal gathering to remember you, or whether you’d like to have a service at the family church or synagogue.

Now this is one important document. You can also place this kind of information in your regular will, but many times that document doesn’t get open until you’re getting your hair and make-up on at the funeral home.

So for all you slackers out there (including me) here’s a handy list to guide you:

  • Put all your important documents in ONE place and tell your loved ones where it is–safe, top drawer, safety deposit box, etc. Make it known where these important papers are.

The important papers you need are

  1. All your insurance policies–house, car, medical, and life.
  2. All your loans and current bills. Be sure to include passwords to all your accounts.
  3. The Five Wishes, or at least a letter that states what your wishes are. Include lots of choices and preferences so your loved ones aren’t trying to figure it out without a clue.
  4. Make a list of items you’d like to give to people and other personal thoughts.
  5. Consider an ethical will–it’s a document where you get to share your heart, your philosophy to life, your blessings for those you love and how you’d like to be remembered.
  6. YES, YOU NEED A WILL. If you don’t have a will, anything you do have will be distributed by the discretion of the courts according to the laws of your state. On top of that, your loved ones will have to pay for this probate service, so get that will made. Consider a trust if you have children under 25. Even if you’re married, you still need your own will. If you own a business, you’ll probably need to hire an estate attorney or elder-law attorney.
  7. Even if you’re married or have a legal partner, then it’s important to have both of your names listed on the house, car, etc. This can save time and headaches.
  8. You can get a will online, but it’s smarter to pay out the money and do this with an attorney. For most people, this will cost you $250-$500 and you’ll be set and have the peace of mind to know that it’s done right and your loved ones are taken care of.
  9. If you have children under 21, it’s important that you list a guardian–maybe even more than one in case the first person is unable to perform these duties. Be sure to talk to whoever you appoint–this isn’t something you need to surprise someone with.
  10. Be sure to have 2 witnesses sign your will, notarize it, and if you did go through an attorney, one copy can stay with him/her and you can store a copy in your safe/safety deposit box.
  11. Keep the five wishes or living will more accessible–in a top drawer–with other emergency info such as a list of your medicaitons, DNR orders, and medical insurance info. Let your family members know about this now–so that your needs and wants are respected.

No one likes dealing with the thought of dying, but a little bit of effort can save a whole lotta hassle.

(BTW, this post is based on a Times Union article by Matt Soergel).

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