This month marks the 10th anniversary of my father’s death. He lived with dementia for seven years caused by a form of Parkinson’s called Lewy Body Disease. My father’s illness was one of the main reasons I decided to re-focus my legal career and specialize in estate planning. Another attorney helped draft my father’s estate plan. The attorney took the traditional approach of getting legal documents executed, but with very little counseling or follow-up.
The result? A family left in the dark. We did not know my father’s wishes or preferences regarding his health care or what should be done if he became unable to care for himself. Unfortunately, many people mistakenly believe they checked the “disability planning” box because they executed an advance medical directive (AMD). For context, an AMD is a legal document designating an agent to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are unable to communicate with your doctor. It is an important estate planning document, but it puts a huge burden on whomever you designate as your “health care agent.” You need to have a conversation with your chosen health care agent to discuss your wishes and desires. I believe it is the attorney’s role to help facilitate and provide a framework for these discussions.
Did my father actually want my mother to shoulder the financial and emotional burden of taking care of him at home? I suspect he would have preferred being moved to an assisted living facility after his health deteriorated to a certain point. If this conversation had taken place, I believe my parents would have taken the steps necessary to work through the financial issues of paying for long-term care should the need arise.
Tough Issues, Tough Discussions
It is perfectly understandable that no one wants to discuss issues related to mental decline, incapacitation, and death. Nevertheless, if you don’t plan for these issues – both by planning to have the financial resources to pay for quality long-term care and by communicating with your loved ones about your wishes – then you are effectively leaving a burden for your loved ones.
There are many advances in medical science, and I believe in the next decade or so, we will have real treatments to stave off diseases like Alzheimer’s, Dementia, Lewy Body, and so forth. We are not there yet, but there are certain actions you can take to help prepare for the worst. For example, you can take a simple screening test to determine if you are at a higher risk of developing these debilitating diseases. When you visit enrichvisits.com, you can take the “Mymemcheck” test (it is free to take the test). The site also provides educational information on diets and other factors that you can attempt to address to help reduce your risk of developing these diseases.
There are moments when I wonder what would have happened if my father took this type of test and learned about his heightened risk of developing Lewy Body. He may have been more inclined to engage in deeper conversations with our family about what to do when he was unable to care for himself.
Personal Pain Drives Desire to Help Others
The experience I had with my father after his diagnosis and a big reason why I founded InSight Law. Our mission is to help bring families together during difficult times and put together plans to ensure the family is not driven apart by a lack of communication or information.
Estate planning is a process; it is not simply a document or transaction. The goal of InSight Law is to help support your family during difficult times and be there when it matters most. That is why the InSight Law Maintenance Plan is so important. This Plan provides a platform where you essentially teach us about you and your family and we teach you about the relevant laws and regulations governing estate planning.