Kenny Rogers famously crooned, "The most that you can hope for is to die in your sleep." Unfortunately, while death comes for all of us eventually, we can't guarantee it will come so painlessly or gently. As difficult as it is to contemplate, we should all think about end-of-life care.
Most of the time, when people talk about estate planning, they are talking about what they expect to happen after they've died. But an important part of estate planning is making sure one's wishes are known for medical care in the event of incapacity and designating a trusted person to make sure those wishes are honored and carried out.
Two dangerous assumptions that many people make is that they have plenty of time to talk about these issues with loved ones, and that even if they don't, their loved ones will know what's best to do. These assumptions too frequently prove to be tragically false.
A sudden accident or rapid-onset illness, like a stroke, can strike an adult of any age. When that happens, the victim is often unable to communicate his or her wishes for care. With advances in medical technology, patients who once would have died might now be kept alive for weeks, months, or years. The question is: at what cost, and what benefit is achieved? And what measures should be taken, or withheld?
Think about these questions for a moment:
Many people struggle with the first three questions, but nearly all are caught short by the last. Consider that. If you would be uncomfortable making these decisions for someone else, chances are they would feel the same about making them for you. Wouldn't you find it comforting to know, with certainty, their wishes? Realize that, again, they would feel the same—and it's in your power to grant them that comfort.
What documents should you have in place for end-of-life care? The following is a list of common end-of- life planning elements you may wish to include:
In addition, you may want to do some financial planning around your end-of-life care. Such care can be expensive. In addition to sparing your loved ones the emotional burden of guessing your wishes, you can also minimize their financial worries when they should be focused on more important things. Consult an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney to discuss what documents you need—then take the important step of discussing your plans with your loved ones.