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
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
- 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
Final arrangements indicated how you wish your body to be handled after
your death. If you have 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
Thies & 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 Thies & Lihn, PLLC today to schedule a
free case evaluation with our team.