ESTATE PLANNING: Estate planning is more than wills, trusts

2013-11-16T11:13:00Z ESTATE PLANNING: Estate planning is more than wills, trustsChristopher W. Yugo Times Business Columnist
November 16, 2013 11:13 am  • 

I've been following a tragic story involving a hunter in our home state. The hunter apparently fell out of his tree stand and severely hurt is back. While in the hospital, the family was told that the man would be paralyzed from the shoulders down and would likely never breath on his own again. I've read a couple of different accounts, and I'm not sure if he was in an induced coma or just strongly sedated. In either case, he wasn't able to put voice to what care he wished to receive.

The doctors were able to awaken him and were able to ask him what he wanted. He made it clear he didn't want to live like that and that the air tube should be removed. When told that removing the air tube would likely lead to his death, he made it clear that he didn't want it. Long story short, the air tube was removed and he spent the next couple of hours surrounded by friends and family until he passed. The man was 32, a newlywed and a father-to-be.

I'm not making any judgment call on this man's decision, and I hope you aren't either. This man was faced with terrible options and he made the call. His family and doctors respected his decision and I think we should too.

I'm also not sure if this sort of thing happens all the time. I know it is the first time that I have heard of someone being brought out of a sedated state to express a decision regarding medical care. Maybe it happens all lot, but it's the first time I have heard of it.

What is more likely to happen is that this sort of a decision is going to be made by someone else, and you aren't going to be given a say, unless you have planned ahead and made your wishes clear.

Most of us think of estate planning as wills and trusts but it is so much more than that. Medical care and end of life decisions are as important, if not more important, as who is going to get your stuff. If you don't plan, you may not get a say in what care you receive or who gets to make that decision. Worse than that, you might leave the decisions to loved ones without any direction from you or if you don't do it right, with directions that may not be legally enforceable.

That's why it is important to plan for unexpected medical emergencies. You should appoint someone as your health care representative either in a power of attorney or in a health care representative declaration. You should also execute an advanced medical directive such as a living will or a life prolonging declaration so that you have a say. Don't count on them being able to wake you up and ask.

I've been thinking about this man and his family a lot. I can't begin to imagine what they must have gone through. I'm sure that they were glad that they had an opportunity to say goodbye but I'm willing to bet that they wouldn't want any other family to go through this sort of thing. My thoughts and prayers are with the Bowers family.

Opinions are solely the writer's. Christopher W. Yugo is a Crown Point attorney. Address questions to Yugo in care of The Times, 601 W. 45th Ave., Munster, IN, 46321 or to Yugo's information is meant to be general in nature. Specific legal, tax, or insurance questions should be referred to your attorney, accountant or estate-planning specialist.

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