Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Protecting End of Life Wishes

One of the most important things we can do for ourselves is to discover how we want to live. However, this understanding not only includes how we walk this earth but also how we leave this earth. There is great honor in being privileged to walk the journey of life alongside another person and in respecting their journey.

Recently my beloved great uncle passed away. As my parents, myself and others walked alongside him, he shared his life and afterlife wishes with us. He did everything within his earthly power to ensure his wishes were known and established prior to his passing. In spite of his insistence and clarity, there remains individuals determined to undermine the wishes and efforts of my great uncle. His wishes and efforts that allowed him peace of mind for leaving this earth.

The struggle to protect his wishes emphasized the deep need for end of life planning. Such planning is not age dependent; it is life dependent. I began preparing my own end of life planning during my teenager years and regularly update my documents to reflect any changes and maintain currency throughout the years. Our life journeys may end abruptly and our loved ones who walk alongside us may realize and respect our wish but without legal documents stating and supporting our wishes, there is risk for obstacles in spite our life companions best efforts to honor us.

When discussing advanced directive and durable power of attorney forms with clients, I often am told "my family knows what my wishes are". Unfortunately, verbalizing wishes is not always enough to ensure our wishes our honored. Our doctors do not and are not always allowed to honor our previously verbalized wishes without legal documents stating our wishes.

End of life planning has many caveats for exploration and completion. It is more than simply verbalizing our healthcare wishes in broad generalities. It includes establishing someone to make decisions on our behalf if we're unable to do so ourselves - financially, medically, and physically. It includes directing the distribution of assets, establishing care for dependents, determining medical wishes and service preferences upon our death.

The laws and processes surrounding end of life planning and ability to establish ongoing legal matters, such as guardianship for a dependent, vary from state to state. Thus it is essential to thoroughly obtain and understand what is allowed and required within your area of residence.

Leaving our life companions without legal protection to honor our wishes leaves the door open to not only our wishes being dishonored but also unnecessary stress, legal filings, difficult decisions, potential conflict, and costs that all can be abated by completing end of life care.

When we walk alongside another person we are privy to sharing deeper aspects of ourselves while gaining insight and wisdom not learned elsewhere. This is a mutually shared benefit as the walkee and life companion learn and share their needs, wants, fears, and wishes with one another. It is when we let our egos fall to the wayside and instead listen to what another person needs from life that we are allowed to share one of the greatest gifts we have - respect and honor.

For information on medical end of life planning - Advanced Directive, Durable Power of Attorney, and Do Not Resuscitate Orders - visit here here. For information on estate planning, visit here

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