As the baby boomer generation retires and focuses on senior health care and planning for the end of life there are unique opportunities for families to make the right preparations to ensure smooth transitions and reduce the struggling of families trying to make the right decision. Our health care law practice includes drafting wills, living trusts, power of attorney documents and living wills. We are helping our clients prepare for health care challenges during senior years as well as preparing for end of life transitions. When we work together as families when everyone is mentally and physically healthy, we can support one another in major life events without unnecessary anguish. Having all the right health care and estate planning documents prepared make it easier for everyone.
A recent study for the website Caring.com “found only 53 percent of adults reporting having a healthcare power of attorney and only 42 percent reported having a will or living trust.[i]”
Why is it people wait until someone is sick to prepare a health care power of attorney or will? Why do we otherwise wait until we are planning and overseas trip to prepare these important documents? Most incidents involving injury or death are more likely to occur within a few miles of home. People are learning that health care and estate planning documentation is for everyone, not only the rich.
““Families go through a trauma in decision-making in and of itself,” explained Christine Gorka, director of the Clinical Ethics Center at Memorial Medical Center. “We don’t want (families) to feel like they’ve made the wrong decisions, and they often struggle.[ii]”
If you die without a will in Illinois, the laws of intestate succession determine what happens to the assets in your estate. Your assets and property will go to your wife, children and available heirs in statutorily-determined percentages. This can be difficult for families when there have been remarriages or other blended situations. What happens to your minor children and dependents, if any, is also controlled by a will and final testament. Despite the focus on this article being a senior population, everyone should have a will and should consider the additional documents named in this article, regardless of age.
A living trust, also called a “revocable” trust, is a legal document authorizing your assets to be placed in a trust, with named beneficiaries, such as yourself, during your lifetime. After the end of your life, your assets will be directed to your “successor trustees” who would otherwise be the named beneficiaries in your will. There are many options. Some people use a will to determine what happens to certain items like family heirlooms and the remainder of the assets are managed through the living trust.
Power of Attorney for Health Care
A power of attorney document allows you to appoint another person, your agent, to make health care decisions for you if you are unavailable. An example of being unavailable includes a coma or a temporary period of unconsciousness such as during a surgery. If there are complications or decisions that need to be made, the individual with a health care power of attorney can make legally binding health care decisions on your behalf. There are also power of attorney documents that give an individual broader legal authority to conduct basic business, transact banking and pay the bills for an individual who is unavailable or lacks capacity.
A living will is similar to a power of attorney for health care and is used in appointing another individual to make decisions about proper health care and specifically the termination of care under certain conditions. Where lifesaving resuscitation may be required to keep a patient alive, the individual named in the living will have the authority to determine whether to use emergency procedures. This also applies to the decision to terminate medical treatment.
Planning for smooth living in your senior years requires attention to detail when preparing health care and estate planning documents. To learn more about elder and health law planning, please call Michael V. Favia & Associates, P.C. to make an appointment by dialing (773) 631-4580.
About us: Michael V. Favia & Associates, P.C. is a health law and litigation firm in Chicago representing individuals, healthcare professionals and organizations with civil legal matters as well as professional licensing and regulation.
Chicago health law and litigation attorney Michael V. Favia and his associates in several locations and disciplines, advise and represent private individuals as well as healthcare professionals in all types of litigation and administrative matters involving licensing and regulatory agencies.
Michael V. Favia and Associates, P.C. represents individual physicians and health care organizations in the Chicago area with a variety of legal matters. With offices conveniently located in the Chicago Loop, Northwest side and suburban meeting locations, you can schedule a discrete meeting with an attorney at your convenience and discretion. Michael V. Favia & Associates is available at (773) 631-4580. Please visit www.favialawfirm.com and feel free to “Like” the firm on Facebook and “Follow” the firm on Twitter. You can also review endorsements and recommendations for Michael V. Favia on his Avvo.com profile and on LinkedIn.
[ii] See HNi above.