In business, success is not a result of luck; it is the result of careful planning. This is true for all aspects of life—paying for college, buying a home, starting a family. Yet, when it comes to planning for critical medical incidents or the end of life, too many people put off even thinking about the topic.
While most people trust their loved ones to make decisions on their behalf, they don’t realize what a burden this might be. Jamee Wetzel, a critical incident stress responder and grief facilitator with a master’s degree in family ministry, states that “Most people are aware of the emotional responses to grief, but few people know of the physical responses. These responses make decision making and clear thinking difficult, if not impossible, for a period of time.”
For this reason, basic end-of-life planning in advance is one of the greatest gifts a person can give their loved ones.
Protecting a Legacy
Most life milestones come at a time of one’s own choosing such as college, marriage, or retirement. This is not so for death or catastrophic illness and injury. Many people believe that financial planning of this sort is not necessary unless they possess significant wealth. This is not true. Whatever a person has acquired through their hard work is worth protecting.
Perhaps even more important than planning for death is planning for incapacitation. Coordinating with an attorney and a financial planner is imperative to structure assets in such a way that long-term care can be provided without financially crippling your family.
This type of planning should include not only financial assets, but also a business legacy. Business owners and partners in small to midsized firms should meet with those they work with and put together a plan of succession. If catastrophe strikes, co-workers and partners will be in emotional, mental and physical distress. An organized plan of action will not only preserve a business legacy, but will also provide peace of mind to those who helped build that legacy.
Medical Decisions and Decision Makers
When discussing critical medical documents, most people quickly think of
“Do Not Resuscitate” orders and life support directions. This type of document is called a medical directive. Medical directives are important documents that can bring peace of mind to individuals and their families. However, for a younger person, a medical power of attorney is of even more importance.
A medical power of attorney does not give directions. Instead, it names the person or persons who will make medical decisions in the event that an individual becomes incapacitated. Even if a person will eventually make a full recovery, there are medical decisions that need to be made during temporary incapacitation following car accidents and other unexpected events.
Many factors, including maturity, temperament and geography, may contribute to choosing a proper medical power of attorney. An individual should consult with their family, loved ones and a legal professional to make this decision and properly execute the necessary documents.
Planning for your Children
When asked about what concerns them the most in the event of a sudden
death or injury, most people respond with, “Making sure my kids are cared for.” Beyond finances, it is important to determine who will actually provide daily care for young children. Obviously, this a far more important consideration for a young person with minor children than for a senior with adult children.
Children are not property. Children cannot be inherited by a relative in the same way that a car or a baseball card collection can be passed on. Nonetheless, providing some written guidance as to your wishes can provide great comfort to the mourners left behind. There may be a multitude of well-meaning friends and family who would be willing to step forward. Knowing the desires of the deceased can ease the burden of making that decision.
Planning for the end of life may not be as fun as planning for retirement, but it is critical that everyone, even the young and healthy, put basic plans in place. Not only will proper planning ensure achieving one’s desires, but it will also relieve friends and family of the burden of guessing and reacting during a time of stress and grief. As such, end-of-life planning is not just practical, but also a gift of love.
Disclaimer: This column is for informational purposes and should not be considered personalized legal advice. Individuals should seek the counsel of an attorney to address their particular circumstances and desires.