The Conversation with Your Doctor, Estate Planning Lawyer and Family Members

The Conversation with Your Doctor, Estate Planning Lawyer and Family Members

Everyone needs to have an annual checkup, taking stock of their health with their primary doctor. The annual check is also a good time to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to instructions for health care and an advanced healthcare directive, also known as a living will. When people sign their last will and testament, everyone breathes a big sigh, says The Huntsville Item’s article “Make sure you talk to your doctor and family.” But that’s not the end of estate planning.

Your primary care doctor needs to know what your wishes are, as well as your spouse and children. The best way to make sure they have this information, in addition to having a conversation, is to bring a copy of an advanced healthcare directive or living will with you to your next check up and talk with your doctor about it. Ask them to keep a copy on file.

It’s a good idea to give a copy of documents such as the Medical Power of Attorney and Medical Directive to Physicians and Family to each primary care doctor, and a copy to the healthcare agents you have selected.  Don’t forget to keep a copy or two in your records to take with you if you ever have to go to the hospital.

The signed original should be kept with all of your estate planning documents—in a safe place in your home, possibly in a fireproof safe. Make sure to tell a few family members where these original documents are, in case of an emergency.

The hardest part of estate planning is not usually picking the right fiduciaries or deciding how to distribute assets among loved ones. The hardest part is almost always having these conversations with family and loved ones.

It can be so daunting that families often don’t have these important discussions. Here’s the problem: avoiding the conversation doesn’t mean the issues go away. More family infighting takes place after a death than any other time. Emotions are running high, old wounds are opened, and unresolved issues, especially between siblings, come pouring out. If the parent who has died has always been the one who made peace between everyone, that buffer is now gone.

Having this discussion in a low-pressure, non-emergency time is something that every parent should do for their children. Consider a family gathering where the underlying agenda is to get everyone comfortable with the concept of talking about what the future holds. It doesn’t have to be a formal meeting; a casual family get-together is likely more comfortable for everyone.

If the conversations are taking place in a casual manner over an extended period of time, a lot of ground can be covered with less tension and stress. Once you get people used to the idea that you know that you are not going to live forever, it’s easier for everyone because you have now told them you want to be sure they are taken care of.

In some families, these conversations begin when all are invited to attend a family meeting with the estate planning attorney to discuss wills, financial powers of attorney, and medical powers of attorney. Sometimes having this conversation with an experienced professional can take some of the sting out of planning for the future.

Reference: The Huntsville Item (June 30, 2019) “Make sure you talk to your doctor and family”