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- 2014 - June - 2nd -
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Bar Bulletin: The beginning of end-of-life planning

By Mike Jorgensen, Jacksonville Bar Elder Law Section Co-Chair

There are many moments when you may think about what you want for your final years in life. This is especially true if you may need caregivers or surrogate decision makers. It’s never too late and never too early to prepare yourself and those around you for your final wishes.

What are care advocates?

Your care advocate represents your interests, including for financial and health care related matters. This person could be a caregiver, a child, a friend, an attorney or trusted adviser.

These individuals can be vital when making caregiver decisions, arranging funding for services, arranging services or coordinating care.

Health care issues

• Have you selected a decision maker entrusted to make your health care choices if you are not able to do so, i.e., living wills and advanced directives?

• What treatments would you like to have, or would rather refrain from, in case you become very ill?

• Would you like to be resuscitated, or have other artificial life supports, in case you stop breathing or your heart stops, i.e., do you have a living will?

• If you need caregiving, would you like this to be done through a home-health care service or in a facility?

• Have you considered purchasing long-term care insurance? (Long-term care insurance helps pay for the care you need when you can no longer care for yourself.)

• Would you like to spend your very last days in a hospital, at home or in a hospice facility?

Family and estate issues

• Are your advance directives and will up to date? Do they reflect your current wishes and desires?

• Is the executor you have chosen for your estate able to complete your wishes and is he or she honest?

• Does your executor have all the facts needed to settle your estate?

• Do you need to consult with an estate planner or financial adviser?

• If you are caring for loved ones, elderly or minor, have you made arrangements for their care or possibly guardianship after you are no longer able to be the caregiver?

• Have you talked to an elder law attorney about setting up a living will or advanced directives?

• Have you talked or specified in writing to your children and grandchildren about who receives certain objects from you such as furniture, heirlooms and mementos?

• Have you talked with family about counseling for those who survive your death, if necessary?

Finances issues

• Have you set up your Power of Attorney, i.e., a trusted care advocate to help you pay bills and make financial choices on your behalf if you are unable to do so?

• Do you have an updated list of your assets, debts and creditors?

• Do you have a trusted care advocate who can find all your legal papers, such as your living will, birth certificate, etc.? Does he or she have access to your safe deposit box?

• Are your assets titled in a way where they can be dispersed after your death? Is your lawyer and/or executor of your estate aware of this?

• Do your pension(s), social security, life insurance and retirement account(s) have the proper beneficiaries designated?

• Do you own a business or are you a partner in a business? Who will run the business if you are unable to?

• Do you have preneed funeral arrangements, funeral plans or cremation arrangements?

• Are you a veteran or the surviving spouse of a veteran? If you are currently receiving caregiving in the home or in an assisted living facility, have you considered applying for possible benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, i.e., aid and attendance?

Other important issues

• Have you tied up any loose ends such as estranged friends or relatives?

• Would you like to leave anything written (including medical history, great stories, etc.) or pictures to future generations?

It is always best to be well prepared and pre-planning helps ease the burden to family and friends. Pre-planning helps you get the best care for yourself with less mistakes to your final wishes and desires.

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