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Posted on in Estate Planning

Lombard estate planning lawyersEstate planning can be a difficult task for many individuals. Rare is the person who is excited about confronting his or her own mortality. The reality is that none of us will live forever, and estate planning affords us the opportunity to provide for our family members and loved ones well beyond our lifetime. Some elements of estate planning, however, are intended to take effect, if necessary, while you are still living so that your affairs can be properly managed, no matter what happens to you. Powers of Attorney are among the most important estate planning instruments, but they are often overlooked by those who are unfamiliar with their application.

Two Types

There are two different kinds of Powers of Attorney (POA): Power of Attorney for Property and Power of Attorney for Health Care. The two categories refer to the subject matter covered by the document, but both types give a trusted friend or family member the authority to make decisions for you in the event you are not able to make them for yourself. As their names imply, a POA for Property gives your chosen individual or entity—known as an agent—the power to make decisions regarding your finances, assets, and debts while a POA for Health Care appoints an agent to make medical and health-related decisions. By using POAs properly, you can help protect your family from uncertainty and unnecessary costs associated with guardianship proceedings.

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Lombard estate planning lawyerWhen most people think about estate planning, they often focus the transfer of assets from one generation to the next. Wills and trusts—the most common vehicles for transferring such assets—represent a significant part of the estate planning process, but there are many other considerations that should be addressed. One of the most often overlooked aspects of estate planning is preparing yourself and your home to make life easier as you age, and doing so often takes time, money, and self-awareness regarding your current and possible limitations.

A Glaring Need

According to the Pew Research Center, an estimated 12 million Americans over the age of 65 live alone. A disproportionate 69 percent of that number—nearly 8.3 million—are women. While independence among senior citizens is often a desirable alternative to assisted living or nursing facilities, the reality is that a home that is suitable for a healthy, able-bodied adult may not be convenient or safe for an aging senior.

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Lombard estate planning attorneyMost people are familiar with the concept of different “stages of grief.” While you may not necessarily be able to list the five stages as they were introduced in 1969, you are most likely aware that grieving, for most people, is a process with fairly distinct elements. While there are other situations that could cause a person to go through the grieving process—such as a divorce or giving a child up for adoption—the most common is during the period following the death of a loved one. When you die, your children, grandchildren, and other family members will almost certainly experience a great deal of grief, which makes responsible estate planning all the more important.

What Are the Five Stages?

In 1969, a Swiss-American psychiatrist named Elisabeth Kubler-Ross published a book called "On Death and Dying" which introduced the stages of grief as she saw them. Based on her experience and study, she identified the five stages as Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance. Despite being laid out as linear—suggesting that one stage leads into the next—the reality is much more complicated. A person who is largely in the Anger stage of grief is likely to experience moments or days of Denial and Depression. He or she may even skip a stage and effectively come back to it at a later point.

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Lombard estate planning attorneysDo you have a signed and executed will or any other elements of an estate plan in place? If so, you are already ahead of more than half of American adults.

Next question: Have you had in-depth discussions about estate planning with your children and other important family members? If so, you and your family are well prepared for unexpected surprises—assuming your estate plan addresses all or most of the details that are significant to you and your loved ones.

Final question: Would your children agree that you have had the necessary conversations and do they know where to find important documents, passwords, and account information? Unfortunately, serious disconnects in communication are all too common when it comes to estate planning.

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Lombard estate planning lawyersEvery person deserves to have control over the medical care they receive, including that which is provided at or near the end of their lives. Advance medical directives, such as a living will, give you the power to make certain decisions about your end-of-life care in advance, taking into account the possibility that you may not be able to make such decisions if and when they are necessary. Unfortunately, many advance medical directives are open to interpretation which could result in a decreased quality of life and unneeded suffering. There are some things you can do, however, to ensure that medical care is provided in accordance with your wishes, regardless of your condition at the time care is needed.

Death-Delaying Procedures

A living will is used primarily to specify the types of death-delaying procedures that you wish to be provided if you are ever diagnosed with a terminal condition and are unable to make care decisions for yourself. Death-delaying procedures refer to treatments and care that are postponing death in situations where healing or curing the condition is not possible. Such procedures include blood transfusions, artificial respiration, dialysis, and intravenous feeding or medications.

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