News Column

Get end-of-life documents in order before it's too late

February 22, 2014

By Jean Cherni, New Haven Register, Conn.



Feb. 22--While we have all heard the saying, "Time and tide wait for no man," many of us don't really believe it. When it comes to our own mortality, we all too often procrastinate, with what can be disastrous results for ourselves and our loved ones. For some advice and answers to this important problem, I talked recently with two dynamic attorneys who have joined forces to create a unique legal practice.

Attorneys Cynthia Cartier and Raymond Bower have formed Cartier& Bower, LLC, with offices in Guilford to provide practical solutions for the challenges people face in their daily lives. Offering expertise in the areas of elder law, which includes planning for long-term care, estate planning and living wills, family law, personal injury, business law and real estate, they are able to provide expert, compassionate advice. I asked them what were the most important documents that all seniors should have prepared.

No. 1: The durable power of attorney which creates an agency relationship under which the principal appoints another person to transact business, legal and financial matters for the principal. It is effective until the death of the principal.

Why You Need It: It can prevent many problems caused by the incapacity of the principal. It can avoid the need for expensive and hard-to-obtain guardianship and conservatorship rights. It allows the person you have chosen to take quick action on your behalf.

No. 2: Appointment of a health-care representative. You appoint another individual to make health-care decisions on your behalf in case you are either incapacitated or unable to understand the consequences of a health-care decision. The designated agent may request, receive and review information regarding your physical and mental health, medical and hospital records and may employ or discharge health-care providers. They may also authorize admissions or discharges from a health-care facility and consent to the provision, withholding or withdrawal of health-care, including life-sustaining procedures.

Why You Need It: Ensures an agent exists that can follow your wishes and express them to health-care providers at a time when you are unable to do so yourself. It can help to eliminate confusion and indecision when timely decisions are required, and it avoids family disputes as to who is in charge of making those decisions.

No. 3: Advance care directive or living will. Connecticut law provides that if a person's medical condition is "terminal" or "permanently unconscious" and such person has executed a living will expressing the intent they be allowed to die, the physician will not be liable to a lawsuit for ceasing life-sustaining measures. The form generally provides that if you are not able to make an informed decision regarding your health care, you direct the health-care provider to follow the instructions in the document. There are many possible provisions that can be included to meet your specific wishes for unusual situations or for specific religious beliefs.

Why You Need It: Helps to ensure that the treatments you will receive in a terminal or permanently unconscious situation are in concert with your wishes and provides guidance to your health-care representative.

No. 4: The will or revocable living trust answers the question of who will inherit your assets after death and the best way to pass on those assets to comply with your wishes. Both documents also should analyze the amount of various taxes that could be payable at death and then devise the best methods to eliminate, minimize or postpone their impact.

Why You Need It: If you do not have one of these documents, your assets will pass under the laws of intestacy and may not go to the beneficiaries you intend. You also lose the ability to make tax elections that could maximize the value of what you pass on to your heirs. As to which document you should choose should be decided with the advice of your attorney as there are plusses and minuses with each approach.

-- Cartier & Bower are at 2488 Boston Post Road, Guilford, 203-458-1477.

Contact Jean Cherni, certified senior adviser for Senior Living Solutions and Pearce Plus, a helpful, full-service program for seniors contemplating a move, at jeancherni@sbcglobal.net or 49 Rose St., Apt. 510, Branford, 06405.

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(c)2014 the New Haven Register (New Haven, Conn.)

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Source: New Haven Register (CT)


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