Advance Health Care Directives: Health Care Power of Attorneys and Living Wills Explained

When it comes to your health care, especially during these uncertain times, you need to ensure that two estate planning documents in particular are up to date. The first is your health care power of attorney. This document allows you to name a person to make medical decisions on your behalf or communicate your wishes in the event you are unable to. The second document your estate plan should include is a living will. A living will clearly spells out your wishes for the end of your life, for example, whether or not you want to be placed on life support if you are in a persistent vegetative state or have a terminal illness. Although it is one of the least discussed documents in an estate plan, it is equally as important as the other documents. When reviewing your advanced health care directives, it is crucial that you determine what your wishes are and that you meet with your estate planning attorney to confirm that your advanced health care directives adequately reflects those wishes.

In addition to meeting with your estate planning attorney, you should have a meaningful discussion with the person you designate to make your health care decisions for you in the event you are unable to. Although this conversation will likely be uncomfortable for those involved, as these topics are often difficult to think about, you should discuss the following issues, as well as any others you may think of, to guarantee that you are cared for in the way you want.

Do you have particular beliefs about health care or end-of-life care?

Consider any spiritual, religious, or personal beliefs you have about your end-of-life care. For example, what are your beliefs about blood transfusions, organ donation, or artificial life support? Do you want clergy or other spiritual or religious leaders at your bedside before you pass away? Consider documenting these beliefs and wishes, perhaps even requiring that your health care decision-maker honor them when you cannot speak on your own behalf.

What type of medical interventions do you want?

When faced with end-of-life care in which you are not able to communicate your wishes, it is important that your chosen health care decision-maker understands the types of treatments you do or do not want administered. Depending on the situation, there could be a variety of treatments or interventions available, such as experimental drugs or procedures, ventilators, feeding tubes, or artificial hydration through an IV. You may want to document your specific wishes on these or other decisions.

Do you have different wishes based upon your medical condition or prognosis?

Depending on your state, your advance directives might contain provisions on the care you will receive in either a terminal condition or persistent vegetative state. While advance directives do not memorialize “do not resuscitate” orders (those are done at a hospital and usually with the advice of a physician), you may be able to direct your medical decision-maker (and those treating you) to remove medical interventions and cease medical treatment if you are in a terminal condition, as certified by a physician. Consider also if you have certain wishes regarding the discontinuing of interventions or treatment if you are deemed by physicians to be in an irreversible and persistent vegative state.

Will your chosen health care decision-maker honor your wishes?

This is one of the most important questions you must ask both yourself and your chosen health care decision-maker, and you should have confidence in the answer you receive. While you may be steadfast in your beliefs and decisions about your end-of-life care, if you are unable to communicate this information, someone else will have to make these decisions on your behalf. If the person you have chosen does not agree with you, and absent properly executed documentation of your wishes, your chosen decision-maker will be allowed to make whatever decisions the decision-maker believes are in your best interest. Even if your wishes are properly documented, will your chosen person honor them if that person does not agree with your decisions, or will your decision-maker create an additional roadblock by challenging those decisions in a court of law?

If you suspect that the person you have chosen will not honor your wishes, you need to update your medical power of attorney immediately. You cannot predict when you will be in the hospital facing the end of your life, so you need to make sure that your documents are up to date and ready to be used at a moment’s notice.

We are here to help you

With health care at the top of everyone’s mind right now, we want to reassure you that we are here to help. Choosing the right health care decision-maker and clearly communicating your wishes for your end-of-life care are two matters that should not be taken lightly. We can assist you in determining whom to name to this very important role and making sure that your wishes are clearly communicated in the appropriate documents. Give us a call today to schedule an in-person or virtual meeting.

Legal Paperwork Cheatsheet: A Guide to the Top 10 Must-Have Documents

Whether you own a little or a lot, the last thing you want to do to your loved ones is leave a bureaucratic mess after you pass away or become incapacitated. Aside from mourning your passing or a significant deterioration in your health, this will cause the family additional stress. Heirs may forfeit life insurance payouts, tax deduction advantages, or miss accounts they did not know existed. This is why it is key to have your estate plan in place before life circumstances get the best of you.

In order to avoid problems, below is a list of ten documents you should start preparing right away to ensure you have a solid estate plan in place and your heirs are protected.

  1. A will: This is a legal document that states your final wishes in the event of death or incapacity.  In this document, you name an executor to carry out your final wishes, heirs to receive assets from your estate, and a guardian for any minor children you may have.
  2. A trust: This is a legal agreement between you (grantor or trust maker), the manager of your assets (trustee) and those who benefit from the trust (beneficiaries). Your assets are put into the trust and managed by the trustee on behalf of the beneficiaries, according to the terms you put in the trust document. All living trusts are revocable (can be easily changed) or irrevocable (cannot be easily changed) and are created and go into effect during your lifetime.
  3. Personal inventory: Because most wills distribute property in terms that are general, it is important to create an inventory of your personal items to ensure nothing is overlooked and to let family members know if some items are stored in another location. You should include collections, any valuable property, as well as stories regarding family heirlooms.
  4. Power of attorney: This document is essential if you become incapacitated as a result of an accident or illness, because it allows a named person to make key decisions on your behalf regarding your finances and/or health care.
  5. Final wishes: This is particularly important and should include information regarding any pre-arrangements you have made for a funeral or cremation, organ donation, pet care, and who should be notified when you pass away.
  6. Identifying paperwork: These critical documents should be in kept in a safe place, and it would be a good idea to have a copy of each one. These include birth certificates, passports, marriage certificates, immigration papers, and other identifying documentation.
  7. Financial account list: Put together a list of all of your financial accounts. These should include any of the following: checking, savings, money markets, certificates of deposit (CDs), investments, annuity, retirement, pension, etc.
  8. Digital asset list: While software can be useful in keeping track of your digital assets, change of service terms can make this difficult. Instead, keep really important images or messages backed up and saved in a place where your family can access them (and know where to find them);
  9. Business ownership documents: If you own, owned, or are buying a business, you should keep all associated paperwork in a safe place. Documents should include, but may not be limited to, buy-sell agreements, stock certificates, LLC shares, operating agreements, corporate minutes, etc.
  10. Past tax returns: At a minimum, you should keep the last three years of tax returns and supporting documentation; if you want to be really careful, keep the seven most recent years.

If you have any questions about these important documents, or planning for your family’s financial security once you are gone, contact McCarthy Law Office today.

How to Talk to your Parents about Creating an Estate Plan

Conversations about death and dying are rarely fun. Most people avoid them because they invoke feelings about our inevitable demise. Broaching this subject can be particularly difficult for parents and their adult children. Adult children may avoid bringing up the topic because they do not want to think about their parents’ mortality, and they may also want to avoid sounding as though they are waiting for their parents to die.

Despite these valid challenges to having conversations about death and dying, you should not avoid the topic. Your parents will die at some point, and having a plan to care for their money and property when they pass away will preserve their legacy and help them care for those they love most. Having this difficult conversation will also ensure that your parents have a voice regarding their end of life or when they can no longer make financial or medical decisions for themselves. Due to advancements in technology, these conversations are increasingly important because more people are likely to experience a time when they are still alive but unable to make decisions for themselves. In the absence of conversations about these scenarios and a legal delegation of decision-making authority, state law governs what happens. Those default rules may not reflect your parents’ wishes. In addition, failure to have your parents’ wishes properly documented may result in their heirs having to engage in expensive and time-consuming court processes.

Once you understand the consequences of not having those conversations, the next question is how do you raise the issue with your parents? There are a number of different approaches, though no particular one is necessarily better than any other. The following are some key ideas to keep in mind if you want to have this conversation with your parents.

  • Do not nag. If you are trying to persuade your parents to talk about completing an estate plan, the last thing you want is to make the process and yourself an annoyance. Instead of engaging in a productive conversation, you may inadvertently create an atmosphere where your parents start avoiding you or become suspicious of your motives. If your parents hesitate to have these conversations, explore ways to bring up the topic without leaving them with their guards up.
  • Be open and honest about your concerns. Being truthful about your worries is a significant challenge when discussing what will happen to your parents when they die or if they lose the ability to make decisions for themselves. Every family is imperfect, and oftentimes, areas of concern indicate delicate family situations. To facilitate the best conversations about estate planning and to achieve effective planning for your parents and their legacy, you must address the awkward family issues. You must ask the difficult questions now, when your parents are available to provide their insights.

Also, it is essential to have all the necessary parties, such as siblings, stepchildren, new spouses, and former spouses, involved. As your parents embark on these conversations, let them know that you support them. Prioritize understanding their wishes and helping them to protect those desires.

Ensuring that all the parties involved are in generally good health is another consideration. Having these conversations after someone’s health is compromised may result in decisions that are not considered objectively. In those situations, attempts to think deeply about a plan for what happens to your parents, their property, and their legacy, may be blurred by concerns regarding their health.

  • Ask your parents what their wishes are. Find out what your parents want and hope for with regard to estate planning. Do not make assumptions. Be direct and ask them what their ideal situation is. What they say may surprise you. Even if you have had no previous conversations of this nature with them, that does not mean they lack a clear idea of how they see things occurring in the future. The problem is that they may not have the plans in place to realize their vision. Asking them about what they want brings them one step closer to making their vision a reality.
  • Discuss the planning already in place. In many cases, parents do some estate planning when they start their family and never update it. Therefore, your parents may have some documents about what should happen if they can no longer make decisions for themselves or if they die, but the documents are no longer relevant because they do not address the changes that have occurred in the family over time. As a result, asking them about what they have done in the past is a critical component of having an effective conversation with your parents. Specifically, ask your parents if they have any of the following documents—and if they do, the documents should be reviewed
    • past wills
    • past trust documents
    • powers of attorney
    • HIPAA authorization forms
    • insurance policy and retirement plan beneficiary designations
  • Include benefits to their children and grandchildren. Finally, addressing how your parents will build their legacy through their children (you and your siblings) and grandchildren is critical. A common sentiment among grandparents is that grandchildren are their reward for not letting their children drive them crazy, so they often have a significant desire to provide special allocations for their grandchildren. The form and method require serious consideration, given the unique dynamics between children and grandchildren. Explore how your parents want their money and property distributed and whether your childless siblings will receive less. Again, navigating this area requires great tact and wisdom.

If you approach your parents about end-of-life planning and you can all have clear conversations about the topics addressed above, you will be establishing the right foundation for effective estate planning. 

You Do Not Have to Do This Alone

If you feel overwhelmed by the steps discussed above and you would like a neutral party to help facilitate the conversation and provide guidance regarding how the estate planning system works, McCarthy Law Office is available to help. Call our office to schedule a virtual meeting with us to begin the process.

Use Your Covid Relief Payment to Plan your Family’s Future

President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan on March 11, 2021. The money has already started to go to those taxpayers who use direct deposit. Money will continue to be distributed in the coming weeks and months. Now is a great time to scratch estate planning off your to-do list and protect your family’s future.

The nearly $1.9 trillion relief package includes the following:

STIMULUS CHECKS

  • $1,400 per individual earning up to $75,000.
  • $2,800 for married couples earning up to $150,000.
  • $1,400 per child if you qualify.
  • Payments decline above these thresholds and phase out entirely above $80,000 for individuals and $160,000 for married couples.

CHILD TAX CREDIT EXPANSION

  • Temporary boost to $3,000 credit per child, or $3,600 for each child under 6.
  • Credit boost begins to fade out for individuals earning more than $75,000 per year, or $150,000 per year for married couples.
  • Families who are not eligible for the boost will still be able to claim the normal $2,000 credit per child.

FEDERAL UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

  • $300 per week boost to unemployment benefits through Sep. 6, 2021.
  • The first $10,200 of unemployment benefits are exempt from taxes.
  • Applies only to households with incomes under $150,000.

The Rescue Plan also included money for vaccine production and distribution, housing aid, health insurance subsidies, Medicaid expansion, aids to states and local governments, and aid to help safely reopen schools.

ESTATE PLANNING IN CINCINNATI

Contact McCarthy Law Office to schedule an appointment to discuss your family’s estate planning needs by telephone 513-815-7006 or by email mccarthy@danmccarthylaw.com

 

 

 

What Can Happen to Your Business When You Die or Become Incapacitated

Preparing your company for your incapacity or death is vital to its survival. If you have not planned appropriately, your business can be disrupted, harming your customers, employees, vendors, and ultimately, your family. For this reason, proactive planning – including your business and your estate plan – is key. Below are some issues you may encounter if you haven’t planned and tips on how to protect your company and keep the business on track and operating day-to-day in your absence.

  1. Your Business May Shut Down

What happens if a business owner dies without a plan in place? Or, the owner of the business is in a coma because of a car wreck and unable to run the business?

It is entirely possible that the business could close with nobody to take care of day to day management. Even if a family member or trusted employee knows what’s needed they may not have the authority to take some actions. Legal documents and bank accounts may not be accessible which could put operations at a standstill. Third parties may not be willing to work with those who try to step in to run your business.

Also, the business could be tied up in a court process lasting months, potentially further disrupting business operations.

  1. Valuable Business Information May be Exposed to the Public

If you have not planned or even if you have planned, your ownership interest in your business may be subject to probate court. This means that the public, including business competitors, will be able to see the value of your interest in the business as well as that of other property. What if you family needs to sell the business quickly? Potential buyers now have valuable information with which to better negotiate buying the business from your family.

  1. Prepare for the Unexpected

Small business owners are often extremely busy focusing on building the company and keeping it running on a daily basis. It can be really hard to get their attention to address certain issues that can greatly affect the business – death and incapacity. But not addressing these issues may jeopardize the business you worked so hard to build. Younger business owners tend to think it will be many years before they have to worry about these matters but the fact is that this can happen to any of us at any time. The right plan can help keep your business running regardless of what happens.

Not only should you have the proper business documents in place, like an operating agreement and a buy-sell agreement, but the right estate planning documents can be just as important.

  1. Contact an Estate Planning Attorney

Having a plan for your business in the event you are unable to continue managing the company is essential to keep the company operating. An attorney can explain the options you have to protect your company so that you can focus on what you do best – running your company. Contact McCarthy Law Office today to get started protecting your business.

What is my Car Accident Claim Worth?

A serious car collision can upend your life in the blink of an eye. Before accepting a settlement from an insurance company, it is important to maximize your compensation. Such compensation should cover all of your damages, both economic and non-economic. What is the difference?

ECONOMIC DAMAGES

Economic damages can be calculated with a dollar figure and supported by hard evidence. There is no cap on recovery of economic damages in Ohio. Examples include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Lost earning potential

NON-ECONOMIC DAMAGES

Non-economic damages are more difficult to quantify. There is not typically a hard dollar figure that can be directly assigned to such a loss. Further, Ohio has a statutory limit on the amount of non-economic damages an injured party can receive. Examples include:

  • Pain and suffering
  • Mental anguish
  • Loss of family relations (also known as loss of consortium)
  • Physical impairments
  • Loss of quality of life

It is difficult to predict the value of a particular claim without knowing all of the information, including all economic and non-economic damage losses. If you have been injured by the negligence of another driver, contact McCarthy Law Office for a free consultation to discuss your clam.

Cincinnati Personal Injury Attorney