Living Wills and POLSTs — Defining your End of Life Care Decisions

For many people, thinking about one’s end of life care decisions is a painful and difficult process. The traditional approach to addressing these issues has been to execute a Living Will. Unfortunately, the standard Living Will may not provide sufficient instruction in all situations. A Living Will, sometimes also known as an Advance Directive, essentially allows you to specify whether or not measures should be taken to extend your life artificially. For example, you can designate whether you would like to placed on a ventilator or feeding tube. You can also appoint an enforcer to carry out your wishes.

Unfortunately, the standard Living Will may not provide sufficiently detailed instructions for care givers in all situations. To assist you and health care professionals tasked with carrying out your last wishes, most states have created and implemented a new planning document known as Physician Orders for Life Sustaining Treatment (“Polst”). Filled out and executed by your physician, the Polst form contains specific care instructions to be followed by health care providers. To quote the below-linked to New York Times article, “[t]he form summarizes a doctor’s specifications for the use of specific treatments like breathing machines, chest compressions and electric shocks to the heart. It is not open to negotiation or pondering.” As the below-linked to article points out, Polst forms are not for everyone but rather for those individuals who are frail and elderly or terminally ill.

Executing a Living Will and/or a Polst form is an important step in formulating an effective estate plan. If you have questions about either form, where to obtain them, or what other steps you might take, read the below article or contact the Roark Law Firm.

Estate Planning and Retirement Planning Go Hand In Hand Together

USA Today recently ran a great article highlighting a big problem facing many Baby Boomers (and really people of all ages). The basic gist of the article is fairly straightforward. Namely, planning for your future should not be restricted to simply funding your retirement but must also include creating a plan for death or incapacity. While everyone recognizes the importance of setting aside money for retirement, many people choose to ignore the issue of creating a will and other aspects of proper estate planning.

With that in mind, there are a couple of major points from the article worth repeating. First, retirement planning and estate planning both come down to the act of preparing for the future. Make a plan (to save more money, to protect against a second marriage going wrong, etc.) and put it into effect. Don’t forget, once you have a plan in place you can always revisit it and refine it as you move forward.

Second, remember to plan for potential incapacity in addition to death. The value of having a Durable Power of Attorney, Designation of Health Care Surrogate, and Living Will cannot be overstated. These documents will allow you to appoint the person(s) you trust most to make important legal, financial, and medical decisions on your behalf.

Finally, bite the bullet and talk to your loved ones about your plans for the future. No one enjoys talking about dying but being upfront with loved ones about your wishes can save a tremendous amount of heartache and money down the line.

Below is a link to the article. If you have any questions or concerns, please leave a message or contact the office.