I recently spoke with a client with a view to revising an estate plan. He had recently been party to an expensive and bitter divorce and the time seemed right to reconsider his long plan. After examining all of the normal things, credit cards, guarantees on loans, trustees and heirs under his will, beneficiaries under various insurance plans, private, government and business pension plans, and joint ownership of investment and other accounts, we came away satisfied that the logistics were complete.
But for one thing! His former wife was still his.
His reaction. “I can see her now. Jim has a hang nail? Put him down!”
Might not happen that way, but he did change the attorney.
For the rest of us, it makes sense to have this document if we do not already and it makes sense to review it periodically. You may need it and it better work when you do. There is no guarantee that your health will fail eventually, but that is the way to bet.
If you are young enough, you might considerto make sure you do not lose your dignity because of financial constraints. You do not want to end where some pet owners get to. Their companion animal becomes subject to financial euthanasia.
Choose you attorney carefully.
I have heard of a case where a person appointed his three daughters as his attorney, but failed to take into account that they had animosity towards him. He endured six months or so of a painful condition and intrusive testing and treatment. Apparently to make up for abuse he had inflicted upon them when they were young. Who could have seen that coming?
A hospital is a place where the general rule is that you must check your dignity at the door. Be sure those you appoint know the limits to how much of your dignity you are prepared to give up and for how long. You might need to have uncomfortable conversations to make it work to your wishes.
You have lived your life to here with certain over-arching personal rules about your life’s value and your personal dignity. Do not risk turning yourself into an expensive experiment at some hospital or a chronic and dependent invalid. Make written provision and choose a competent person to hold medical power of attorney to protect your dignity under adverse conditions.
Talk to an competent lawyer and check your wills while you are at it.
Be kind. Provide clarity. The job is difficult enough without ambiguity.
Don Shaughnessy is a retired partner in an international accounting firm and is presently with The Protectors Group, a large personal insurance, employee benefits and investment agency in Peterborough Ontario.
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