Living Will

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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.

How to choose the people in charge of your estate plan

How to choose the people in charge of your estate plan

How to choose the people in charge of your estate plan

One of the most important aspects in creating an estate plan is creating the people who will carry out your wishes.  This can be especially difficult if you are single and/or have a small family.  In fact, this issue requires the strongest consultation skills because most people understandably don’t grasp the duties involved of a person such as a power of attorney, an executor or a trustee.  This is one of the many values I can bring to my client in helping create their estate plan:  offering advice on who should be put in charge and for what purposes.

This first blog article will cover the process of choosing the individual(s) to be your power of attorney.

I’ve written other articles on the importance of having power of attorney documents.  In most estate plans, they come in two types.  The first document is a durable power of attorney for finance and property.  This document allows you to name someone to make financial and, indeed, almost all non-health related decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.  The other document is a healthcare power of attorney.  In this document you name a person (called an “agent”) to make healthcare decisions for you if you are incapacitated.  Such decisions could also allow the decision to put you into a skilled nursing facility, to switch doctors or to change the course of a medical treatment.

Now that you have a better background on what these documents are, it’s time to discuss the who aspect of these documents, as in who you want calling the shots if you cannot.

If you are married, the first person you are most likely and frankly should choose to make decisions on your behalf is your spouse.  So the process of choosing a power of attorney is automatically easier.  But…you are now tasked with choosing an alternate or even better, two alternates (or as many as you are comfortable with).

The durable power of attorney for finance requires, above all, someone who you trust and someone who will act.  Trust is obviously a crucial aspect of this document.  Someone in your life who you love but is a liar or has problems with money or managing money is not a good candidate.  Proximity is a plus as well and that is because if you are single or widowed and unable to make decisions for financial matters, you’re going to need this person to act on your behalf every day.  So being close is helpful.  But close and trustworthy is not enough.  Do they have a busy life?  Would it be better to ensure they will act that just name them and assume?  Always ask if there is any doubt as to whether they can act.

Keep in mind that power of attorney for finance does not have to be a finance, legal and accounting wizard.  It’s better, in fact, to have someone who understands that the document permits them to hire someone to handle these various aspects of your life.  Above all, your POA should be a person of action.

And that also goes for the power of attorney for healthcare decisions (again, referred to as your “agent”).  Remember, as we advance in age, health problems can come on gradually or suddenly, i.e. you may need an agent to take you to your doctor appointments and be there immediately if you are rushed to the hospital (hopefully not!).

Your healthcare power of attorney does not need to a medical professional but it certainly does not hurt.   In my next blog article, I will discuss another aspect of the healthcare power of attorney that you need to consider in choosing your agent:  the healthcare directive.

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