Is a Living Will Right for You?

advance directives, Illinois estate planning attorney, is a living will right for you, living will, medical careWhen making decisions about the future, one document that should be addressed by all adults is a living will. The Mayo Clinic defines a living will as “a written, legal document that spells out medical treatments you would and would not want to be used to keep you alive.”

With so many medical advances made over the last few decades, it is quite possible for a person to be kept alive for an extended period of time with the use of life-sustaining equipment, such as a ventilator for a person who is not able to breathe on his or her own.

Many people, however, often say they would not want to be kept alive under these circumstances because they feel their quality of life would be greatly compromised. Yet despite a person verbalizing these feelings at one time or another, if he or she does not have any advance directives in place, such as a living will, then these decisions would have to be made by family members.

Unfortunately, family members do not always agree with what is the best medical option. Therefore, an individual’s wishes, if not in writing, may not be followed. Another possible scenario is when two immediate family members (such as two adult children) disagree, and the decision of one’s future is then suddenly up to a judge because lawsuits have been filed. All this can be avoided with a simple living will.

Additionally, there are certain medical decisions you may need to make before you have an attorney draw up a living will. These include:

  • Deciding which life-sustaining treatment or choices you would want, which you would not want used, and how long should these treatments be used if your condition is not improving. These treatments include ventilation, feeding tubes, antibiotics and CPR;
  • Deciding what your feeling is about being given pain medication that provides relief of pain, but may also hasten death;
  • Deciding if artificial life support should be removed if you have been declared brain dead or should it stay in place until your heart actually stops beating; and
  • Deciding if you want your organs donated after you have passed.

Along with a living will, you may also want to consider having a power of attorney appointed in the event you are no longer capable of making important decisions about medical or financial issues. An experienced DuPage County estate planning attorney can help you through this process. Call 630-665-2500 today to schedule your consultation.

Planning for Death to Ensure Your Wishes Are Preserved, Part One

Chicago powers of attorney lawyer, guardianship, health care surrogate, mental health advance directive, planning for death, power of attorneyThe conversation of planning for death, incapacitation, and mental or psychological deterioration is difficult. Even when instructions are left, the truth remains that too often the actual intention of these documents are subverted. This unfortunate situation lends itself to an incredible amount of conflict among loved ones, with many of whom are too emotional to be rational.

Many of these issues arise not only after death, but also during chronic illnesses, after unexpected accidents, and any time one is not in a state to make a competent decision. Thus, it is necessary to place the utmost time and consideration into designating the person, or persons, whose duty it will be to ensure your wishes are legally preserved.

In the State of Illinois, critical decision makers consist of several types. Each has a separate set of rules, hierarchy, duties and influence. It is important to understand the differences between these agents, as well as how each is employed. For instance, the person in charge of your finances may or may not be the same person making health decisions for you.

The following is a list of the different types of agents that can legally act on your behalf, as well as a short description of each:

  • Power of Attorney: This is an official agreement between a designated agent and the person he or she could be making decisions for which can cover many areas of law. These agreements are individual in nature, and give more individual discretion as to how far powers extend. Responsibilities can be added and removed as needed. What specifically makes the power of attorney so important is the fact that he or she can legally act on your behalf regardless of your physical or mental status. A person may have a medical power of attorney and a property power of attorney.

  • Guardianship: Generally reserved for extreme circumstances, guardianship is a completely different concept. This is a direct agent of the court who has the authority to make decisions about your living arrangement, some medical care, and personal finances. In these cases, family members are given no preference by the court. Guardianship can be appointed to financial institutions, direct agents of the court, or any person over 18 without a felony conviction. This is a complicated process, and requires proof to the court of disability from multiple sources. It is often not revocable. Also, guardianship comes in several different forms.

  • Health Care Surrogate: This is the situation you may want to avoid if possible, as it has the potential to cause the most conflict among loved ones. A health care surrogate is a person designated by a hierarchy of family members and is appointed to make decisions about your health care and finances should you be deemed incompetent. A health care surrogate is usually employed when a cohesive estate plan is not in place to address these issues. The order in which an Illinois court will appoint a surrogate is as follows:

    1. Spouse,

    2. Child,

    3. Parent,

    4. Sibling,

    5. Grandchild, and

    6. Friend.

  • Mental Health Advance Directive: This is a signed document of consent allowing an agent to make decisions regarding psychological medical decisions. Specifically, this document addresses the administration of psychotropic medications, use of electroconvulsant therapy, and hospitalization if necessary.

The best way to ensure your wishes are preserved, in the event you should become incompetent due to illness, injury or death, is to consult an experienced Chicago powers of attorney lawyer. The Illinois law office of Stock, Carlson, Flynn & McGrath, LLC provides professional legal services in all estate matters to clients in DuPage County, as well as across Illinois.

An Estate Planning To-do List

Since the holidays are right around the corner, there are some things that you should start to consider for planning your estate. One reason to plan now is that laws will change on January 1, 2014, and certain trusts can allow you to leave assets to your loved ones without being lessened by taxes. To make the most of your hard work, make sure you take the time to complete your estate plan.

Starting in 2014, the federal tax free limit that people can transfer to successors will increase. The gift tax will is also set to increase. There are also many different tax breaks or exclusions that will change beginning next year. This is a good time to begin or review your personal estate plan with a checklist.

It is important to elect someone who will act in your best interest if you are unable to. If your health could be an issue in the future, nominate someone to have health care power of attorney and amend your living will, which will provide them with a guide. You can also elect a financial power of attorney, a guardian for any minor children and an executor of your last wishes.

Estate planning is the time to write down how you want your assets to be passed on to your loved ones. Your spouse might want to sit in with you as they will be one of your main concerns in this process. If you have any current documentation that controls your estate, this is a good chance to review it and make changes as you see fit.

If you have identified your main goals in your estate plan, it is time to seek a professional. It is important to have the expertise of someone who can translate your desires into a combination of trusts and scheduled gifting that will allow your estate to be transferred with a minimal taxed amount. An attorney can make sure that all documents are legally sound, and there will not be any hiccups when it it is too late for you to make changes. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney in DuPage County today.