Do you lay awake at night thinking to yourself, “Oh no, I have to have the talk with my children.” “What are they going to say?” “Are they going to be upset?” “Are they going to be embarrassed?” “Will they look at me differently?” “Should I even talk to them about this or should I let them hear it from my attorney?”
Of course “the talk” I am referring to is each of our personal decisions on life support.
Most people wonder whether they should have “the talk” with their kids or loved one. But take into consideration the potential pitfalls if you do not. There are two famous cases that I want you to consider when you question whether you should talk to your kids about your final wishes: The Terri Schiavo case and the Ted Williams case.
- Terri Schiavo Case – medical care wishes upon incapacity
It is important to speak with your loved ones regarding what type of medical care you want to receive if you are ever incapacitated. To ensure your wishes are honored you can create health care documents, like a Living Will and Medical Health Care Power of Attorney.
Most people who were alive in the 1990s and early 2000s remember the famous Terri Schiavo case. Terri Schiavo collapsed suddenly in here home and was in a persistent vegetative state for the next 15 years while her husband and parents battled over the removal of her feeding tube. I often wonder if that fight (and the hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees) could have been avoided if she only had talked to her parents and expressed her wishes prior to this tragic event. (That is assuming that she did in fact, make statements to her husband about not wanting to be a burden on anyone but that is a topic for a different article). Although I do not know the answer to this question, I do know that in most cases if a person has the appropriate estate planning documents in place, and they talk to their loved ones about their wishes, things would have turned out differently. Speaking about your wishes alleviates some of the stresses that are present with tragic events, like this one, and helps your loved ones move forward with the grief process. If they know your wishes, and it is documented, they are more likely going to honor them; since they heard you express them and understand why you have made the particular choices.
So as hard as it may be, you want to talk to your loved ones (after you have created the necessary estate planning documents) to let them know what type of medical care you want, and ultimately what kind of life sustaining measures should be taken if you are ever in an irreversible coma or persistent vegetative state
- The Ted Williams Case – Cremate or Freeze?
As important as it is to speak with your loved ones about medical care upon incapacity, it is equally as important to talk to them about how you want your remains handled. Your wishes can be expressed in your health care power of attorney, an estate planning letter or in some states, like with an Authorization to Cremate. Or you may choose to arrange (and even prepay) for the burial or cremation with the funeral home a head of time.
Ted Williams, a Boston Red Sox legend, is now known more for the court case over his remains than his impressive baseball career. Did he want to be frozen or cremated? That was the question posed to the courts after his death. His daughter asserted that Ted wanted to be cremated based on his wishes expressed in his Will. However, his son claimed he wanted to be cryogenically preserved based on testimony from the executor of Ted’s estate. Although, there was a Will the courts took the case because the Will was older and the Executor’s testified that Ted created the Will prior to cryogenics was invented so he could not have shown intent to be cryogenically preserved at the time he made his Will but did express his intentions to be frozen. Eventually he was frozen. Was that the right thing to do? This is a question for the theologians, but I do know that his final wishes most likely would have been honored without the courts involvement had he talked with his kids and not just his estate’s executor, and if he had updated his estate planning documents.
The moral of this is to share with all your loved ones your final wishes and make sure to update your estate planning documents. Make sure to set up an appointment to sit down with one of our knowledgeable estate planning attorneys today.
Contributed by an MH Phoenix Estate Planning Attorney.
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