Jamie Thomas, a 28-year-old British citizen, was vacationing in Florida when Hurricane Irma hit. He helped board up the villa where he was staying and weathered the devastating storm. He was able to return to the UK on September 17, and, one week later, he died in a motorcycle accident.
No one likes to think about the unfortunate things that can occur in life – especially not younger people. Unfortunately, no one can know what’s going to happen in the future. That’s why it’s important, in the event of an emergency, to have made your wishes known – and have documentation in place. You do not want confusion regarding your wishes for emergency care.
“Often, when people think about an estate plan, they just think about money. Traditionally, estate planning used to be only about getting your stuff from you to the people you want to have it when you die. But we are more than just our things, which is why estate planning evolved,” said Jessica Showers, associate attorney at the Hammond Law Group, which practices only estate planning and elder law.
“You are more than your stuff, but you do have your own feelings and opinions about how you want to be treated when you are incapacitated at the end of your life. And those things need to be communicated in an appropriate and legal way to ensure your decisions are honored. It’s not enough to just tell your friends and family ‘I don’t want to be on life support,’ because if another family member disagrees then a doctor is stuck in the middle. And that doctor won’t do anything until instructed to by a judge.”
Don’t let your opinions for your care go unheard. Act now to ensure your healthcare wishes are respected.
There are four essential documents:
- Living Will
- Healthcare Power of Attorney
- Financial Power of Attorney
- Universal HIPAA Release
“Those are the most important documents because they articulate a person’s wishes,” said Showers.
“A living will expresses your desires regarding end-of-life decisions in the event you have a non-reversible, terminal condition. The healthcare power of attorney lists the people who are legally allowed to make medical decisions for you if you can’t communicate your wishes. The financial power of attorney clearly states who is going to manage your financial affairs if you can’t do it yourself. I advise my clients to, at a minimum, have those in place.
“The final document is a universal HIPAA release. This one may be most important for parents of millennials who are going away to college. When kids go off to college and they are over 18, parents don’t get to know any information as far as the law is concerned. We’ve had situations where a child gets hurt and the parents call the hospital and try to get information and they can’t. Because unless their child has signed a universal HIPPA release stating it’s okay to release medical information to parents, the doctors look at an 18-year-old as an adult.”
Working with an estate attorney can help ensure that an estate plan flexible enough to handle life changes, such as marriage, job fluctuations, and having children.
“For example,” said Showers, “even if you don’t have children, you can write a plan as if they are in existence. You can create an estate plan, a will, or a trust, whatever fits into your goals, and say in it that if something happens to you and your spouse that your assets are to go to your decedents. The reason to you that, if you do have children, you don’t have to go back spend additional time and resources to change your plan.”
Millennials will be the first generation in human history that can anticipate reaching the age of 90 in large numbers. There are many reasons for this including a decrease in smoking and an increase in exercise. Given this fact, there could be lot of future ahead for this generation, and they need to plan for it.
Parents or grandparents of millennials may wonder what they can do to encourage their loved ones to get these documents in place. Showers recommends setting a good example.
“Honestly, the best angle is to make sure you have your estate plan straightened out first. It’s that age-old thing about the pot calling the kettle black. If you don’t have your documents in place, it’s a little silly for you to be telling your kids to get theirs set up. The main reason why people do estate planning is of mind for their family members, for their loved ones. If parents do it for their kids, then the kids will do it for the parents.”
Here are additional tips for stressing the importance of estate planning to your millennial:
- Engage them through a digital platform with a webinar.
- Bring children or grandchildren to a consultation with an estate attorney so they can see the value.
- Invite them to come with you to an estate-planning workshop.
“I’m just a big cheerleader of whenever I can make a decision for myself, I want to make it., I don’t want a third party or a judge to make it for me,” said Showers.