Living Wills

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               As an experienced estate planning lawyer St. Charles, I spend much of my time explaining to clients what estate planning is and how it works.  Estate planning is the use of legal documents to not only distribute your assets when you pass away, but to name people to make decisions for you if you become disabled and/or incapacitated.

Overview of Estate Planning Documents

Common estate planning documents include a living trust, last will and testament, medical power of attorney, healthcare directive and financial power of attorney.

A living trust can help you avoid probate and provide rules about when your beneficiaries receive their inheritance.  An example would be creating a provision where your beneficiary only receives their inheritance when they reach a certain age.  That age is up to you and depends on your specific situation.

As one of the top estate planning lawyer St. Charles, you can count on me to also review the purpose of having a last will and testament, which is another document which can distribute property when you pass away.  If you have a living trust, the will usually leaves the property to the trust, not directly to a beneficiary.

Power of attorney documents allow you to name a spouse to make financial and healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated.  An example would be naming your adult children to do banking for you if you had dementia.  A medical power of attorney could name the same adult child to work with doctors if the dementia advanced to a point where you were considered mentally incapacitated by a doctor.

Choosing the Right Estate Planning Lawyer

You should feel comfort with the skill level and personality of any lawyer you meet with.  Many attorneys practice in too many areas of law, which reduces their effectiveness in all areas of law that they practice.  Therefore, you should focus on choosing a lawyer that practices almost exclusively in this area.

Making estate planning decisions is intensely personal due to everyone having different family dynamics, levels of wealth and health and concerns about the ability of children to make smart decisions if they inherit your nest egg.  There are many different components to determining how your estate plan is created and it’s important that we discuss all of the aspects that help you identify these components.

An initial meeting to discuss your situation will include who should be in charge of distributing your inheritance, who your beneficiaries are and specifics about their personality and what assets you have.  Our focus is always on identifying client concerns and worries, client goals and educating clients on how the documents we are drafting resolve their concerns and accomplish their goals.  If you’re in need of an estate planning lawyer St. Charles, contact Legacy Law Center today.


Missouri Healthcare Power Of Attorney

Missouri Healthcare Power Of Attorney

MISSOURI HEALTHCARE POWER OF ATTORNEY: A must-have estate planning document

This article focuses on the importance of having a Missouri healthcare power of attorney and what it does. A Missouri healthcare power of attorney is a document in which you name a power of attorney, called an “agent”, to make healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated and cannot make them yourself.

In Missouri, the document allows you to state whether you want one or two doctors to determine if you are incapacitated. The state standard is two doctors, but you can opt out and decide one.

Once you are incapacitated, your agent can not only meet with your doctors and review your medical records, but decide:

* what type of treatment
* which doctor / which hospital
* whether to put you into skill nursing or other long term care facilities such as assisted living
* whether to put you into hospice, either at home or at a facility
* whether to withhold artificially nutrition and hydration (tube feeding), if you specifically grant that power to your agent

So, in a nutshell, your Missouri healthcare power of attorney literally puts you life into the hands of another person. That should usually be your spouse or an adult child (or children together if you think they can make decisions together). But it’s important to point out that you can choose whoever you want to make these decisions and generally that should be a person nearby who’s judgment you trust and who you are sure will act if necessary.

In the document you can also decide whether you want to donate organs and provide specifics about your wishes as to when you pass away if you want to be buried or cremated and information about the type of funeral services you want. It also contains a HIPAA Waiver which will ensure that your agent can review your medical records as needed and discuss your care with your doctor(s).

You should also have the second part of a Missouri healthcare power of attorney, which is a Missouri healthcare directive (sometimes referred to as a Missouri living will), which at our office is a second part of the healthcare power of attorney document. The point of the healthcare directive is to provide detailed instructions to your agent if you are terminally ill or persistently unconscious (a coma, for example). You want to prevent your agent from having to guess how far to take medical treatment if you are not able to decide and that’s the point of this document. It’s invaluable to provide these instructions to your agent so they don’t have to guess, which puts both of you potentially in a tough spot.

A Missouri healthcare power of attorney document can be drafted by an experienced Missouri estate planning or elder law attorney.

Discussing Estate Planning with Your Family

Discussing Estate Planning with Your Family

Discussing Estate Planning with Your Family

If you have elderly parents, you know how stubborn they can be about discussing important issues in their life.  Having a simple discussion about whether an older parent should still drive, suggesting that they should no longer live at home and should consider assisted living or even asking about finances can seem intrusive or overbearing.

If you’ve ever asked a parent if they have planned for their death or how much medical treatment they want at the end of their life is also a difficult, yet crucial discussion to have with elderly family members.  And you need to be having this discussion sooner rather than later.

Here is why:

First, all estate planning documents require capacity to execute them.  That is, the person signing the documents has to understand them and must be lucid to sign.  When a person no longer has capacity to execute a power of attorney, for example, the courts must decide who will the guardian and conservator of that person in a guardianship hearing.  In Missouri, anyone can file a petition for guardianship.  That can be a problem if you have other family members who want to be in charge but its questionable whether they can act responsibly.

Second, failing to plan can create tremendous problems down the road.  Estates can get tied up in probate for several years and can be contested among family, causing tremendous emotional pain and financial burden.  I’ve represented family members in these situations and it takes a tremendous toll on all parties.

Third, estate planning is not that all that complex if you sit down with an estate planning attorney that can tell you what you need and what you don’t.  The general rule is that the more complex your situation is, the more complex your estate plan will be, but at present much of the complexity of estate tax planning is a non-issue for the vast majority of clients.

Finally, failure to have a plan could result in an unnecessary emergency.  For example, let’s say that Mom has passed away and Dad needs to go into a nursing home but in order to do so, their children need to be in control of his finances and his healthcare making decisions (through a financial durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney) so that they can help him select and pay for the home he will stay in.  Without those powers of attorney in place, none of this can be done.  If Dad needs a nursing home, chances are very likely he needs someone to help him with that process.

If you have an elderly family member who has not created an estate plan, sit down with them and try and have an open conversation with them on the topic.  Having other family members there might help.  You don’t need an intervention setting, but sometimes letting that family member know that you all care and are concerned can do the trick of getting a stubborn family member to act.

Evolving right to die laws…

Evolving right to die laws…

The link below is a very in depth article to read about the evolution and growth of Right to Die laws in the United States and around the world.  Right to die laws concern the ability of a person to end their lives prematurely if they are terminally ill.  Interestingly, this ties into estate planning with the need for a strong healthcare power of attorney and healthcare directive (sometimes referred to as an advanced directive or living will) which outlines your wishes as to continuing medical care and life preserving treatment if you are terminally ill, persistently unconscious or there is no reasonable expectation of your recovery from a serious illness or condition.

Right to die differs, however.  In all but a few states in America, it is currently illegal to assist in the death of the patient.  Your healthcare directive can state that you wishes are not to have continuing life preserving care if it is not going to make a difference, but no steps can be proactively taken to end your life.  This is obviously a clear distinction and one that the article covers.

I expect right to die to become a key issue (if it is not already) in the coming years, with an aging Baby Boomer population and many industrialized countries such as India and China having large aging populations.  It is a contentious issue as well, for clear reasons.  Taking someone’s life has never been an accepted medical standard for treating terminal illness.  Right to die could change that for terminally ill patients.

Here is the link to the article:

Your healthcare Power Of Attorney and Organ Donation

Your healthcare Power Of Attorney and Organ Donation


Your healthcare Power Of Attorney and Organ Donation

Whenever I sit down with clients and discuss the the need for a healthcare power of attorney to be part of their estate plan, that discussion always includes a discuss of organ donation.  Over the years, I have advised clients about organ donation and have discovered that there are many myths about this process.  Many of them are discussed in this article.

More than 120,000 people are waiting for an organ transplant nationwide. Mayo Clinic alone has more than 3,000 patients on its waiting list. Getting more people to register as organ, eye and tissue donors is a major goal across the U.S., yet myths influence that decision for many people, doctors say. Dr. Brooks Edwards, Mayo’s director of the William J. von Liebig Center for Transplantation and Clinical Regeneration and a transplant cardiologist, discusses some common myths about organ donation:

Myth: If I agree to donate my organs, the hospital staff won’t work as hard to save my life.

Fact:   When you go to the hospital for treatment, doctors focus on saving your life — not somebody else’s. You’ll be seen by a doctor whose specialty most closely matches your particular emergency, not by a doctor who performs transplants.

Myth: Organ donation is against my religion.

Fact: Organ donation is consistent with the beliefs of most major religions. This includes Roman Catholicism, Islam, most branches of Judaism and most Protestant faiths. If you’re unsure of or uncomfortable with your faith’s position on donation, ask a member of your clergy.

Myth: An open-casket funeral isn’t an option for people who have donated organs or tissues.

Fact: Organ and tissue donation doesn’t interfere with having an open-casket funeral. The donor’s body is clothed for burial, so there are no visible signs of organ or tissue donation.

Myth: I’m too old or too sick to donate. Nobody would want my organs or tissues.

Fact: There’s no defined cutoff age for donating organs. The decision to use your organs is based on strict medical criteria, not age. And very few medical conditions automatically disqualify you from donating organs. Don’t disqualify yourself prematurely. Let the doctors decide at your time of death whether your organs and tissues are suitable for transplantation.

Myth: Rich and famous people go to the top of the list when they need a donor organ.

Fact: The rich and famous aren’t given priority when it comes to allocating organs. It may seem that way because of the amount of publicity generated when celebrities receive a transplant, but they are treated no differently from anyone else. The reality is that celebrity and financial status are not considered in organ allocation. Why consider organ donation? Nearly 2,000 of the 120,000 people waiting for an organ transplant in the United States are children. Every 10 minutes another name is added to the national waiting list. An average of 18 people die each day in the United States waiting for transplants that can’t take place because of the shortage of donated organs. By donating your organs after you die, you can save or improve as many as 50 lives. And many families say that knowing their loved one helped save other lives helped them cope with their loss.

For more information about organ donation, visit