Throughout our lives, we make many plans. We plan our education, our careers, the purchase of homes, raising a family, and for retirement. Often many people forget to plan one very important aspect of their lives—the end of their life. Maybe it hasn’t occurred that you should have plans for the end of your life, or it may be too overwhelming to think about, but end of life plans can ensure that your passing can be according to your desires. End of life plans are directives to your doctor and your loved ones on how you wish your healthcare to be handled, what your religious or cultural customs are, or your opinions on life support or resuscitation.
There are several documents to consider when beginning your end of life planning. These include:
- Advanced Health Care Directive (AHCD)
- Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment (POLST)
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Durable General Power of Attorney
- Will or Trust
- Final Arrangements
- Beneficiary Forms
The above documents will help your loved ones to support your decisions regarding your healthcare, death, and estate. Be sure to have a safe place to store them and to store them together once you have prepared your documents. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you draft the necessary documents to ensure your wishes are legally sound and will be carried out when the time comes.
When you are nearing the end of your life, you may find yourself in palliative or hospice care and are unable to express your desires for treatment. An Advanced Health Care Directive is a document that will detail your wishes regarding your treatment and life-preserving measures, such as:
- Feeding tubes
- Pain management
- Organ donation
- The desire to remain at home to the greatest extent possible
The purpose of an AHCD is to provide your family with instructions. Without one, doctors are duty-bound to use all tools at their disposal to extend your life, even if you are unconscious. Your family will be consulted for directions regarding your treatment, and may not know what decision you would have preferred. An ACHD provides your family with peace, knowing that they can make the decisions you would make for yourself.
A Physician’s Orders for Life-Sustaining Treatment document replaces a Do Not Resuscitate order. This document is a physician’s order, and cannot be subject to the desires of your family. If you do not have a POLST document, EMTs are required to take every measure they can to resuscitate you until they arrive at the hospital. This document prevents unwanted treatments from being performed to revive you.
Your estate will also require directions on how you wish it to be handled after you passing and in the event that you are incapable of making financial decisions for yourself. Completing these documents can provide necessary directions for your family at the end of your life, and can prevent your estate from going through probate.
A durable general power of attorney is required to grant a trusted individual the right to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are no longer capable. They can make choices regarding your finances to ensure that your estate is kept intact. Once you have passed away, the individual no longer has control of your finances, and the power passes to the executor of your estate or the designated trustee.
Wills and trusts dictate how your assets and property should be distributed after your death. Trusts can prevent your estate from going through probate, but cannot make some of the decisions a will can. Talk with your lawyer to learn more about each document, and to determine which suits your needs. Large estates, minor children, and other factors may dictate which is needed to handle your individual situation.
Beneficiary forms allow beneficiaries to receive immediate access to funds, rather than going through probate. These forms are used for bank accounts, investments, insurance, and retirement plans to designate a beneficiary. At the time of your death, these accounts will be payable to the named recipient.
Final arrangements indicated how you wish your body to be handled after your death. If you have a funeral or burial plans, wish to be an organ donor or other special arrangements you desire, this document provides instructions to your family. This can prevent conflict or stress for your loved ones and can ensure that your final wishes are honored.
Beginning End of Life Planning
If you are ready to start your planning, you should contact a qualified estate planning attorney. They can help you determine what documents you need and will draft them for you. If you need guidance or help to make decisions, they can provide advice and legal knowledge. Your unique needs deserve personalized end of life plans.
Once you have completed your plans and have safely stored your documents, you need to talk to your loved ones. Explain that you have made plans, and talk about what they are. If your family has any questions, this discussion will provide them a chance to ask. They may even ask questions you didn’t think of, and you may wish to consult your lawyer again. Be sure to tell your family where the documents are being kept, and give them any information they will need to access them if you are not able to.
When it comes to end of life planning, our Phoenix estate planning lawyers are ready to offer compassionate legal service. At Taylor & Lihn, PLLC, we have more than 30 years of collective experience to offer, and we are dedicated to bringing our clients the direct attention and personalized counsel they deserve. Contact Taylor & Lihn, PLLC today to schedule a free case evaluation with our team.