September 13

The Advance Health Care Directive

Near the end of her life, comedienne, Joan Rivers joked often about her age and teased audiences that she could, “go at any time.” And yet, when she died on Thursday, September 4, 2014, the public was stunned. Rivers was eighty one years old.

She had been undergoing vocal cord surgery when “complications occurred.” She lost oxygen, her body went into cardiac arrest, and Rivers slipped into a coma. She remained in a coma and on life support for seven days until her daughter Melissa, made the difficult decision to have her removed.

Lucky for Rivers and her family, she had an Advance Health Care Directive (a legal document which per a person’s request, informs their doctor, family and friends of their individual health care preferences. This includes the types of special treatment they might or might not want at the end of life).

Rivers’ family was spared from any family squabbling, lengthy court battles, and/or unnecessary legal expense.

A similar occurrence took place in the ‘90s. Only the end result was much different.

On Sunday, February 25, 1990, an insurance clerk by the name of Terri Schiavo collapsed in her Florida home. Like Rivers, a lack of oxygen caused Schiavo’s body to go into cardiac arrest. Schiavo slipped into what doctors called an “irreversible persistent vegetative state.”

Unlike Rivers however, Schiavo did not have an Advance Health Care Directive. It was left to Schiavo’s husband as legal guardian to make a difficult decision. Assured by doctors his wife had suffered severe brain damage and certain she would not want to be resuscitated, Michael Schiavo chose to have his wife removed from the feeding tubes which kept her alive. Terri’s parents disagreed with the decision.

What followed was a seven year legal battle which ultimately resulted in the removal of Terri’s feeding tube.

According to a 2015 article posted in the “New York Daily News,” members of Terri’s biological family are still praying that one day her widower husband, Michael Schiavo will apologize.

For more information on the Advance Health Care Directive or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

August 11

Estate Planning for Singles

Singles can benefit from estate planning every bit as much as married people … Maybe more.

In regards to protecting assets:

When a person dies without a will, the law dictates that the person’s assets transfer to their closest living relatives. If the person is married, the assets transfer to their spouse and/or children.

If the person is single, the assets transfer to their children, parents, siblings, etc., providing they have immediate living family. However, if the single person does not have any immediate living relatives, the assets transfer to the state. It then becomes the responsibility of the state to decide how and to whom the assets are to be distributed.

If the person wishes to have a say as to what happens to the assets, the person must make their wishes known through a will and/or trust.

In regards to health related decisions:

Suppose a person became incapacitated and they were unable to make financial or medical decisions for themselves. Or what if they are unable to pay their bills, or worse, make critical end of life decisions for themselves.

When a person without estate planning becomes incapacitated, a family member (often a wife or adult child) will usually see an attorney about gaining a conservatorship of the person.

In regards to our single person, it might benefit them more than a married person not to let this happen; which is to say, to put something in place so their wishes are known should the worst happen.

Luckily, estate planning documents like a Health Care Directive make it possible for a person to choose an agent (someone to make medical decisions on behalf of the person should the person become unable to make decisions for him or herself).

But again, married people often rely on their spouse or adult children to act as agent. Single people on the other hand do not share the convenience of deferring to a spouse. And supposing the single person does not have an adult child willing to serve as agent, who do they choose?

For a single person, having the ability to name a friend or alternate family member as agent could be tremendously important.

Without question, estate planning provides benefits and challenges for all people regardless of their relationship status. And yet, planning might very well provide greater value to those who do not have a spouse or partner to lean on.

For more information about wills, trusts or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

July 12

George Michael’s Estate Plan

As a rule, when you read an article about a celebrity on an estate planning website, the article usually illustrates how the celebrity died without proper planning. – A mistake which ultimately left his or her estate in total disarray and the family heading towards a long grueling court battle.

In truth, these stories are the exception rather than the rule. Because the simple fact is estate planning works.

Submitted for your approval is the exception to the exception…

Singer/song writer, George Michael died Sunday, December 25, 2016. He was only fifty three years old.

In life, George Michael was something of an outspoken artist with a rebellious spirit. It would be easy to predict his as one of those celebrity estates left in disarray. Only, it wasn’t.

By all accounts, George Michaels’ planning was current and well drafted.

His estate was valued at one hundred five million pounds (approximately one hundred twenty five million in U.S. dollars)

Michael who was particularly close to his sister, Melanie, (who worked as his personal hair stylist), reportedly left her fifty million pounds (more than sixty two million in U.S. dollars).

His sister, Yioda is expected to inherit a healthy chunk of the estate as well. As are his two god children and several charities.

No one needs to be a rock star to have effective planning, any more than they need to be a rock star to have defective planning. Anyone who plans well, works with a qualified attorney and keeps their plan regularly updated should enjoy tremendous peace of mind knowing their assets will go to who they intend them to.

For more information about wills, trusts or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

June 9

Estate Planning for DINKs

Since the nineteen eighties there has been a growing trend towards married couples either putting off having children, or choosing not to have them at all. Many people call these married couples without children, DINKs; an acronym which stands for “dual income no kids.” And as you might expect, estate planning for DINKs can be very different than planning for “traditional” married couples.

For one thing, “traditional” married couples often plan with the intent of leaving the bulk of the estate to their children. Whereas DINKs (not having children of their own), are free to leave assets to family, friends, charities, all or none of the aforementioned.

DINKs are also expected to enjoy keeping more money in their youth. While their “traditional” married couple counterparts are expected to incur greater expense by paying for child related items and services such as diapers, school supplies and daycare.

“Traditional” married couples hold one distinct advantage over DINKs however. In regards to choosing their agents (people who make either financial or health related decisions for them if they become incapacitated). “Traditional” families often rely on their children to serve in these roles. This isn’t to say DINKs are without options. In fact, they have all the same options as married couples … minus one.

Still, where they may differ, “DINKs” and “traditional” married couples have one thing in common. They can both benefit from estate planning even if how they plan is very different.

For more information about wills, trusts or other estate planning documents, please contact a qualified estate planning attorney.

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