When Best Laid Plans Go Astray

When most people plan for their senior years, they mostly think about a will that specifies how their assets will be distributed upon their death.

But there are other things to think about as well, such as what will happen if you have a stroke, develop a serious illness or become incapacitated?

What should you or your loved ones have in place in those circumstances?

It is extremely important to consider and plan for serious illness, not just death. While we are living longer, that doesn’t always mean we are living healthier. Stroke, complications from diabetes or osteoporosis can lead to nursing home placement. A legal plan must be established with the help of an elder law attorney when a person is healthy so that a difficult situation doesn’t become more difficult when illness or incapacitation occur.

Here are some suggestions for how you can plan ahead for serious illness:

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Are You Prepared? Living Wills and Other Advanced Directives

We’ve written previously about important healthcare documents everyone needs to have on file. The most important of these are your will, and in addition certain advance directives for your medical care. The need for these written directives often does not seem important when health is good. However, as health declines, it is smart to be prepared and to share your medical healthcare preferences in the event of a serious accident, hospitalization or continuing palliative care.

Today’s advanced and widespread use of medical technology has created the need for these advance directives. You may have seen a few of the numerous studies performed documenting deficits in medical care of the dying. Aggressive medical intervention leaves millions of Americans confined to nursing homes and over a million are left so medically weak that they survive only with feeding tubes. Your own circle of friends and relatives probably includes several families overcome with the financial burden of considerable medical costs. At least one “national study* shows some family members had to leave work, 31% lost “most of their savings” and 20% reported loss of their major source of income while handling these medical situations. Over the years as more Americans experienced the burdens and diminishing benefits of invasive and aggressive medical treatment in poor prognosis states either themselves or with a loved one, pressure began to mount to devise ways to avoid the suffering and costs associated with treatments the patient did not want. The first formal response was the living will.

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Legal Documents You Should Have on File

A health care power of attorney is an essential part of your estate plan.

A health care power of attorney is an essential part of your estate plan.

If you ask someone what documents they think are important for most people to have, they will say a will and a marriage license. But there are others that are important to keep on file in a safe place. Be sure your loved ones know where your important documents are kept.


Health care

  • Medical history, which includes major operations and the dates they occurred, allergies, condition, current and past medications
  • Durable health care power of attorney
  • Living will
  • Do not resuscitate order

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