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Why you need a living will & healthcare power of attorney

terri schiavo

Most people don’t like to think about what will happen if they’re in an accident or come down with a catastrophic illness.  They don’t decide who they want to speak for them if they are unable to communicate their wishes themselves.  They don’t tell anyone what kind of care they want….or don’t want.  Once they are hurt or incapacitated, it may be too late.

These are three reasons why you need a living will and a healthcare power of attorney:

1) You name the person you want to speak for you when you can’t.  It should be someone  you trust to make decisions on your behalf and to carry out your wishes.

2) You decide whether you want heroic measures performed to prolong your life if there’s no chance of recovery.

3) You outline the type of treatment you want to receive.

If you don’t have these documents, a relative you don’t know very well and don’t trust or possibly the courts will speak for you and decide what will happen.

For example, they may decide to put you on life support and prolong your life even though there is no chance of recovery and you may not have wanted heroic measures.  They may choose to perform a surgical procedure that you don’t want or they may decide to do something that is against your religious beliefs.

A living will enables you to describe the kind of care you want.

A healthcare power of attorney (It may be called something else in your state or it may be combined with a living will) allows you to name the person you want to be your healthcare agent who can speak for you when you can’t.

Unfortunately, a life threatening accident or a catastrophic illness can occur at any time.  There’s no age that is exempt.  Think of Terri Schiavo.  She was a 26 year-old that had a tragic fall, went into a coma and remained alive, hooked up to a feeding tube, in a vegetative state for more than 15 years because her husband and her parents couldn’t agree on her treatment and she hadn’t legally stated her wishes.

Don’t let others decide for you.  If you don’t have a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, get them drawn up right away so your wishes will be carried out and you will be able to speak for yourself….even when you really can’t.

For more information on this important subject, go to

What Happens To Your Yahoo Japan Digital Assets When You Die?

On Monday, Yahoo Japan announced “Yahoo! Ending”, a program designed to help Yahoo Japan users plan for their death.   The search engine, in partnership with funeral services company Kamakura Shinsho, helps Yahoo Japan users make a will, find a grave, and plan their funeral.    Once Yahoo Japan confirms the user has died, the service will set up a memorial site, send out digital farewell messages, and delete personal data from Yahoo’s on line system.      In the future, Yahoo Ending could be expanded to work with credit card, insurance and other companies to manage a wider scope of personal data left behind when users pass away.

Yahoo Ending answers the question “what happens to your Yahoo Japan digital assets when you die”.  Once Yahoo Japan receives proof of death, Yahoo Japan assumes it has the legal authority to delete digital assets created and stored on Yahoo Japan.

In the United States, Yahoo digital assets are in fact part of the estate of the deceased.   Before we created our digital life, we stored photos and art in an album or a picture frame.   Our emails and text messages were paper letters and notes stored in a file cabinet.    When someone dies, the estate representative is required by law to take an inventory of property owned by the deceased and assign a value to the property, including their digital assets.    The estate representative is then required by law to dispose of property the deceased owned based on instructions left in a will or a trust, or state intestate laws if the decedent died without a will or a trust.   In today’s paper world, estate representatives or beneficiaries must provide documents providing they are managing the assets according to the wishes of the deceased.    In a paper world, proof of death does not trigger the automatic deletion or destruction of property owned by the decedent.

The question “what happens to our digital assets” continues to be the subject of legal debate as the internet service providers and the legal infrastructure grapple with the rules and processes for managing and disposing of digital assets that are in fact part of our estate.

We need programs and policies that don’t just deal with the death of the account owner, but also provide a way for trustees and conservators to manage our digital assets in the case of incapacity.

Related posts:

PC World – Dead In Japan

Wall Street Journal





One thing you should do when putting your affairs in order

A friend sent this to me the other day.  I thought it was worth sharing.

The doctor, after an examination, sighed and said, “I’ve got some bad news.
You have cancer, and you’d best put your affairs in order.”

The woman was shocked, but managed to compose herself and walk into the waiting room where her daughter was waiting.

‘Well, my dear daughter, we women celebrate when things are good, and we celebrate when things don’t go so well.

In this case, things aren’t well. I have cancer. So, let’s head to the club and have a martini.’

After 3 or 4 martinis, the two were feeling a little less somber. There were some laughs and more martinis.

They were eventually approached by some of the woman’s old friends, who were curious as to what the two were celebrating.

The woman told her friends they were drinking to her impending end, ‘I’ve been diagnosed with AIDS.’   The friends were aghast, gave the woman their condolences and beat a hasty retreat.

After the friends left, the woman’s daughter leaned over and whispered, ‘Momma, I thought you said you were dying of cancer, and you just told your friends you were dying of AIDS! Why did you do that?’

‘Because I don’t want any of those bitches sleeping with your father after I’m gone.’

And THAT, my friends, is what is called, ‘Putting Your Affairs In Order.’

Actually, she could protect her money by setting up a trust to ensure that her children got her money, not her husband’s new sweetie.   But it’s still a good story,

For more information about estate planning, wills and trusts, go to

President Obama makes “permanent” estate tax temporary again.

President Obama proposed 2014 budget:  Changing the Estate Tax and Gift Tax Rates AGAIN!!!


From January 1, 2001 through December 31, 2012,  Congress seemed intent on making planning for death more complicated than it already is by  creating a series of “temporary” estate tax laws.   These temporary tax rates and estate tax and gift tax exclusion amounts created turmoil for software companies, lawyers, accountants and ordinary people.

As part of the 2012 “Fiscal Cliff” compromise, President Obama signed legislation that appeared to make permanent the 2012 estate tax exclusion amount of $5 million for estate and gift taxes and a top estate tax rate of 40 percent.    The exclusion amounts would be indexed for inflation.  The statements from Congress and the President made it seem we FINALLY had permanent rules regarding federal estate and gift taxes.  Software companies could stop revising code.   Families could make permanent plans for death.  

So much for compromise.  The Obama “Green Book” Budget for 2014 puts us back in the guessing game about estate and gift tax rules.     Page 138 of the budget has these words:  “Beginning 2018, the proposal would make permanent the estate, GST and gift tax parameters as they applied during 2009.  The top tax rate would be 45 percent and the exclusion amount would be $3.5 million for estate and GST taxes, and $1 million for gift taxes. There would be no indexing for inflation.”

You can find out more here:

The Cost of Dying

Paying For Long Term Care.

Today’s front page article in the San Jose Mercury News is titled “The Cost of Dying.”      The article  talks about the cost and blessing of taking care of a loved one dying a lingering death.

If you are one of the estimated  55 million caregivers now caring for a parent, a spouse, or a child,  you are familiar with the pain and strain of a lingering death.    Costs  that families pay out of their own pockets because Medicare pays only for treatment, not in-home “custodial care.”   Hospice helps, but patients must be judged to be within six months of death and its benefits don’t cover prolonged care.    Private insurance doesn’t cover care, unless the patient has a long term care policy.    Costs that aren’t included in our retirement budgets, but can bankrupt a family.


Die Smart Plan For Old Age