Do you have a Will?

Who will make decisions when you can't?

As a notary public and someone who works in the health care field, I see quite a bit of illness. Patients often require my services as a notary to witness and sign documents. These aren't just any ordinary documents, but are documents that pertain to their health care decisions and ultimately, their health care outcome. From personal experience, I know how difficult it is to make decisions regarding someone elses health. I had to make the decision to have a family member removed from life support. That loved one was my father. In suffering through that experience, I cannot stress to you enough how important it is to make decisions before illness strikes.

It's interesting, we all know that death is unavoidable and if you're lucky, you've never had to deal with death or see someone you love die. But, whether you're someone who has experience with the death of others or not, you know that death is possible at any given time. But, how do you bring up the subject of death with your family? It's not a topic that is readily accepted by family members, but is very important to the outcome of family members who are left behind.

When a loved one dies without making the necessary arrangements regarding their possessions, finances, and health care decisions, it leaves the family members left behind to decide what to do and how best to do it. Making a decision to remove a loved one from life support isn't easy, but it was something that had to be done. Luckily, I am from a family who loves each other dearly so the decisions we made collectively were decisions that we each agreed upon.

Prepare your family. Don't leave them to make difficult decisions!

If your health is failing or if you're in perfect health, it is still important to have your legal matters taken care of. Here are a few basic provisions that should be discussed and made as soon as possible.

If you don't have a will, get one. The will frees family members from dividing assets, which at times can leave others with feelings of loss and resentment. The will also allows a legal representative to handle all matters regarding the will. Bare in mind the wishes of your loved one. In making such important and often times difficult decisions, your full support is needed. Wills can be obtained from an attorney. This document is considered legal and can only be changed by an attorney.

You can also obtain a Living Will. This document isn't like the final Will and Testament, which pertains to your assets upon death, but the Living Will allows you to continue to make health care decisions until you no longer can. Just as with all legal documents, the Living Will can be altered and/or revoked.

If you desire a natural death and do not wish to have life supportive measures, make sure you appoint some who will respect and carry out your wishes. This person will be your Health Care Power of Attorney or Health Care Surrogate. When you are ill and can no longer make decisions for yourself, this person will make decisions for you based upon your wishes. Health Care Power of Attorney or Surrogate is a document that is provided by an attorney. When visiting a medical facility, you can also fill out Advanced Directives. This document is kept on file at the medical facility and only covers the patient's health care decisions when being cared for in the medical facility. The Health Care Power of Attorney and the Living Will can both be revoked and/or overturned.

Another legal document is called a Power of Attorney. A lot of people get this document confused with the Health Care Power of Attorney. A POA gives your designee the ability to make decisions regarding your financial and legal matters, but not your health care. Make sure to stipulate to your attorney which document you require.

Don't leave your loved ones with having to make the decision to end your life.

At times, we don't feel the need to have a will because we don't think we have valuable assets or think that we'll encounter a need for one due to being young in age, but if you have small children or teens, own a house, car, savings account or even own debt, your legal matters will have to be settled. Don't be mislead by the word estate. An estate is not what you think. We think about a lavish home filled with antiques, expensive cars, jewelry, and large bank accounts, but an estate is simply what someone owns.

When my father died, I had to settle his estate. I had to visit an attorney and become the Administratrix of his Estate, and it wasn't a fun thing to do. It left our family in a position of question. We had no experience with such matters, but once you have such an experience, you will not forget it. Keep in mind also, that when someone has incurred a large amount of debt, companies will try to retrieve their assets in order to settle open accounts. This could leave them coming after you. If your loved one is fortunate to have life insurance, make sure it will cover their debts and burial arrangements.

Don't wait until you or a loved one becomes ill before you decide to take action. Have this discussion no matter how uncomfortable. Don't leave your loved ones with having to make difficult decisions that will have a life-long impact upon everyone involved. Don't leave your loved ones with having to make the decision to end your life. Your family will be in enough pain, don't make them suffer needlessly. Take action and plan today.


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