These are the tough days.
Amidst all of the memories of days at the beach or vacationing across the country, you hope that the memory of these last most difficult days will fade. You fear, however, that they will not. You fear that you will always remember the minute that the hospice nurse told you it was time to call your sister, your husband, your mom’s spouse. You fear you will always remember the look of your mother’s mottles skin, her unrhythmic breathing, her cold hands. You fear you will always remember looking out the window and seeing the smallest of snow flakes that December morning when your mom took her last breath.
You have so many wonderful memories of growing up and you treasure the trips that you were able to take your mom on during the five years between the diagnosis of breast cancer, her remission, and the cancer that reappeared in her Brian with such a vengeance that she only lived another three months. Those were the most rewarding and devastating of years. You had great conversations. You had deep belly laughs.
Now you only have the memories.
If there is one hidden blessing in your mom’s illness and untimely passing it is that she had had some very serious conversations with her husband and he knew her wishes. When hospice care began, everyone involved knew that your mom no longer wanted any kind of medical care except pain control. Her husband, however, also knew who your mom wanted to sing at her funeral. He knew that she wanted cremated. He knew so many details that you did not have to labor over.
End of Life Decisions Are Never Comfortable and Easy
Unfortunately, not all families communicate about the most difficult decisions. In fact, if you have not visited with an estate planning attorney, have not taken the time to sign an advanced directive, have not communicated about the kind of funeral services you want to a spouse, children, and sometimes grandchildren can find themselves floundering to know what is best.
Although these conversations are never easy, they are necessary.
Homemade wills serve some kind of purpose, but it is so much better to take the time and work with an estate planning attorney or other legal representative to have an official copy of the wishes that you have. Helping your family not only avoid difficult decisions in the hospital, but also avoid challenging choices about property and other assets.
Consider some of these facts and figures about the complicated decisions that both individuals and families have to make. All of which are easier to navigate with the help of an estate planning attorney or other well informed legal representative:
- Unfortunately, as many as 51% of Americans between the ages of 55 and 64 do not have wills.
- Across the entire population of America, 64% of the public does not have a will.
- To help minimize estate taxes and avoid probate, if you have assets in the six figures or higher, you probably ought to have a trust in addition to a will.
- Laws can change from year to the next and different states may have different caveats, but in 2015 you could leave bequests, defined as gifts to other individuals upon your death, worth as much as $5.43 million free of any federal estate tax. In legal terms, this is known as the estate-tax exemption.
- You are also exempt from federal estate taxes, unless your estate is valued at more than $5.43 million — or $10.86 million for a married couple.
- Having a qualified estate planning attorney draft documents nominating a Health Care Proxy and a Durable Power of Attorney will cost an estimate of $500 to $1,500.
There are encouraging statistics that show more and more people are understanding the need for several kinds of legal documents. For example, the percentage of seniors with living wills, also called advance directives, increased from 47% in 2000 to 72% in 2010. None of these numbers, of course, are as comforting as knowing that your loved one has communicated important end of life wishes and decisions. Everyone wants their last memories to be of the best of times, not difficult legal concerns and questions.