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Monday, December 14, 2015

I'm Away from My Desk, AKA End of Life Things You Don't Want to Think About But Need To

Blogging may be sporadic for an unknown amount of time. My mother-in-law is in the hospital, and DH and I are taking turns assisting my father-in-law with patient advocacy.

I am going to point out a few things based on my previous career as a probate and estate planning attorney and our current situation:

1) When you get to your later years, your spouse/partner may not be the best person to act as your medical representative. He or she may have theirs own health problems, or the emotional impact of their potential loss of you overwhelms them.

2) Whoever you choose as the person authorized to make medical decisions needs to be strong enough to support you and to make those decisions. Frankly, two of DH's sisters are supposed to be the decision makers for their mother in lieu of their father. One of them is scared of the possibility of her mother's death; the other is in total denial concerning the severity of the current problem. Which leaves me as the one acting as my mother-in-law's advocate, i.e. asking questions, consolidating information, weighing treatment options.

3) When a third party is forced to make decisions, this can cause fractures in family relationships. I'm lucky right now in that both of my in-laws are of sound mind. The problems for me happen when my mother-in-law is on painkillers and my father-in-law forgets to wear his hearing aids. Thankfully, no biggie, especially when my husband is a phone call away (or ten minutes from the hospital).

However, when I was practicing law, there was an instance where the daughter who was supposed to make decisions was camping for the weekend. The father had a heart attack, and the other daughter had to make end of life decisions because no one could get a hold of the first daughter. Last I heard the first daughter was still refusing to split the estate per the father's will because she accused her sister of murdering their father for his money.

So my not-legal-advice-or-representation suggestions are the following:

1) Have a clear-cut medical and estate plan.

2) Make sure you've chosen people who can follow through on your wishes.

3) Make sure everyone involved (especially immediate family members) is aware of the plan. Ask your attorney about ways to deter inter-family squabbles when you're gone.

As the late, great Benjamin Franklin said the only sure things are death and taxes. No one gets out of this world alive, so do what you can to make things easier for your loved ones.

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