In my estate planning practice, I talk about end-of-life issues nearly every day. I’ve become tuned in to planning discussions even in the most unexpected places. In my Covid-19 Netflix search, I’m Sorry, Season 2-Episode 3, in which extensive discussions on end-of-life stood out. The subject matter and language can be quite shocking at times. However, even this irreverent series has addressed planning and family discussions surrounding incapacity, guardianship for children, and post-death planning.
In the series, the 6-year-old child, Amelia, asks the parents what would happen if they died. Guardianship and incapacity wishes became the show's theme with parents and grandparents openly discussing their healthcare wishes should they not be able to make their own healthcare decisions. So often, we are afraid to talk with family and friends about our preferences. If you fail to talk about our wishes, your family members will make those decisions for us.
When I talk with clients about incapacity or end-of-life issues, I'm struck by the number of people who avoid even thinking about what will happen if they can’t make their own medical decisions or if their life is ending. My clients can be very decisive about financial issues, but pause when we get to the healthcare directives. It helps to think about the specifics and the choices available. The Georgia Advance Directive for Healthcare form provides some points for consideration.
Who do you want to serve as your healthcare agent if you cannot make your own medical decisions?
What treatment preferences do you want if you are in a terminal condition or in a state of permanent unconsciousness?
Do you want your life to be extended as long as possible using all medications, machines, or other medical procedures that could keep you alive in reasonable medical judgment?;
Do you want your doctor to allow your natural death to occur?; or
Do you wish to withhold all medications, machines, or other medical procedures that, in reasonable medical judgment, could keep me alive but cannot cure you, including withholding all nutrition? And, if you choose option c, do you want nutrition, a ventilator, or CPR?
As our lives change, so do our choices. For instance, I had several clients who stated they absolutely didn’t want a ventilator until the Covid-19 crisis when people recovered after weeks on a ventilator. So today’s choices do not have to be tomorrow’s choices. If your choices are important to you, document then through an Advance Directive for Healthcare. After all, telling a family member to “pull the plug" is probably not an effective plan.
Next week I will post about choosing a guardian for your child.
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This article is a service of Stephanie Scarborough, Personal Family Lawyer. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That’s why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love.