Having an end-of-life plan helps ease tensions later
By Denise Baran-Unland For The Herald-News April 10, 2012 12:10PM
Having a will is a good start, but several other legal documents are also necessary to help prevent legal issues when you die or become incapacitated. | File photo
If you go
What: Ask the Attorney: Elder Law and the Caregiver
When: 6:30-7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Leeza’s Place at Provena Saint Joseph Medical Center, 50 Uno Circle (east entrance), Joliet
Updated: May 12, 2012 8:04AM
Do you have a will?
If yes, that’s a good start, said attorney Mark Hanson. If not, you have plenty of company. Far too many people wait too long to deal with the issues of estate planning, powers of attorney, living wills, do not resuscitate (DNR) orders and guardianships.
Hanson understands how most people avoid thinking about end-of-life issues. On the other hand, he especially dislikes meeting a client for the first time in a nursing home.
“It’s not a good environment to be making those advance directives or estate plans,” Hanson said. “Then there’s always the question of whether the person is capable at that time to do it. It’s much better to take care of these things when you’re young and healthy and know what you want.”
On Thursday, Hanson, of Fabrizio, Hanson, Peyla and Kawinski, P.C. Attorneys at Law in Joliet, which concentrates its practice in estate planning, probate and elder law, will discuss the above topics and answer questions about sifting through the legal documents.
Although his talk’s focus will be directed at those caring for older relatives that may, perhaps, have some form of dementia, Hanson said even single people, families with children and those who did estate planning more than 15 years ago, when advance directives were not commonly included, can benefit from the same information.
“Whether I’m doing estate planning for a young couple that’s just had their first baby or an older retired couple, I always include advance directives and powers of attorney,” Hanson said. “If you have no power of attorney and you become incapacitated, there is no one to direct your care.”
People often assume their spouse, or one of their children, will take command when the time comes.
Sometimes, though, spouses die “out of order” with the healthy spouse unexpectedly passing away before the one battling chronic health issues. In families with multiple children and sibling disagreement, who makes the decisions?
Until the court appoints a guardian, and the process can be costly and sometimes contentious, the answer might be, “No one.”
“The kids can’t access mom’s bank accounts,” Hanson said. “They can’t deal with Social Security on her behalf,” Hanson said.
Even a will doesn’t guarantee your directions for dispersing your property will be followed after your death, unless you also have a trust, which avoids the probate process. With a trust, the successor trustee transfers the property to those individuals you wish to attain it.
“That’s because when you create a trust, you create an entity that will survive you; the trust is still living and breathing,” Hanson said.