The number one estate planning mistake is not having a plan, even a basic plan! No matter what assets you have or do not have, you can create a living will in preparation for the end of life.
Every study that has ever been conducted has lead to the conclusion that 100% of all humans eventually die. I know, I know… no matter how old we are this is a hard pill to swallow. I don’t want to think of this fact either.
I’d rather ignore the thought and go hiking or head to work as if every day will continue flowing one after the other. As a society, a majority of us feel this way and it is reflected by the amount of Americans suffering and dying in prolonged ICU away from their homes and often in pain.
Modern medicine has become so good at keeping the terminally ill alive by treating symptoms of the underlying disease and prolonging death. And this is great because generally, the worst thing a family member can think of is losing a loved one, but there are things that could be worse that this, such as a loved one dying badly, in pain and contrary to their wishes. For example, some Americans spend the last months of their life in between nursing homes and the emergency room undergoing unnecessary tests and being seen by an exorbitant amount of specialists. There are many ways medicine is great, although more medicine may not be the best care. In our delusion, however, it is easier to cling to life and hold onto medical miracles than to think and then discuss how you or I would like to die.
In my opinion, the first step out of this delusion is to find solace in honoring our own freedom of choice. When is the best time to make this choice and how?
In my opinion, the best time, outside of the delusion is to choose when your mind is clear and when you are not under the duress of disease, impending death, pain or emotional pressure.
Most Americans are unaware that there are ways of planning for their end of life, today!
How do you protect yourself or your loved one from dying in any way contrary to their wishes?
The first step requires honesty and authenticity in that honest of accepting our death or the death of our loved ones. This honesty and solemnity interfused with celebration can create a loving and caring environment for a discussion to be held with loved ones or your family.
In planning for our death, we get to express how much we truly matter to each other and ourselves.
The second step, after we have had a discussion with our family and ourselves, we should formalize those decisions in writing. The process is to formalize your wishes via legal documents such as a living will. A living will is comprised of an Advance Directive or a Health Care Proxy, which I like to call a Medical Care Decision Maker form instead. Proxy sounds so legal and obtrusive to me.
Although these forms are standard legal documents, they are so much more than just checking boxes and filling in blanks. These forms memorialize your wishes and are a somewhat of a love note to yourself and the decision maker so that the decision maker can act up on your wishes as peacefully as possible because, when the time comes, it will be an emotional rollercoaster.
Ask them! You should ask the person you’re honoring to have as your decision maker if they are willing to perform this beautiful and emotional task.
Second, in your Medical Care Decision Maker Form you should specify how much flexibility the person you’re allocating the honor to, has. How much are they allowed to diverge from your wishes, in what situations and under what circumstances. You can also write in a way so that you spare them from the guilt they may feel from deciding either against or according to your wish. This will be a difficult time and the document should be anything but sterile or procedural.
Ultimately, age alone, is not a predictor of when you will need these forms. Everyone should consider themselves in need and this article is aimed to engage the community in fostering discussion. Take the time to talk with your loved ones and families and think to yourself, how would I like to die? I wish you all love and solace in these discussions.