Tag Archives: advance directive

Do you know where your parents’ important information is? 

do you know whereIt may seem morbid but have you asked them?  

This article from a New Zealand website is very applicable to us in the United States.  It’s a topic most of us don’t want to broach with our parents but it’s one that’s necessary to address.

Do you know how to get into your parents safe if necessary?

Knowing where their important documents and valuables are located in the event of an unexpected health crisis will give you, and them, peace of mind – especially if a parent is hospitalized and is unable to tell you where things are.

So before anything happens, it’s a good idea to talk to your ageing parents about what you may need to get one day; you may also want to consider letting your own children know where your key information is located as well.

You should ask your parents for the locations of the following items: 

1. Medical records 

If your parents find themselves in an emergency medical situation, doctors will want to know if they have any existing conditions, previous surgeries and any medications they’re currently on. If they have a spouse, that person probably knows the answers but it’s still a good idea for someone else (i.e., you or your siblings) to know just in case both of your parents are unwell or injured. 

2. Health insurance and life insurance information

It’s important to know where your parents keep their health and life insurance info, including any extras. You’ll also need to know where those cards are and you should ask to see their life insurance policies to double check their premiums are up-to-date.

3. Advance healthcare directive

This is a legal document that is also known as a living will and usually includes your parents wishes in the event of a major medical emergency. For example, they may have a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order or a health care power of attorney (POA) which differs from a general power of attorney. A POA allows a person to make decisions on behalf of another regarding his or her healthcare or medical treatment – this becomes active when a person is unable to make those decisions on their own or can’t communicate what they want. That’s why it’s important to talk to your parents about what they want to do if they find themselves in a situation where they’re no longer able to speak for themselves. 

4. Banking information 

This is a touchy subject but if a parent is suddenly out of commission, bills still have to be paid so find out where your parent’s bank is and get their account numbers, online access codes and PINs. It’s also important to learn how your parents pay their bills. Do they pay online, by check or direct debit? Ask them if they’ll add your name or one of your siblings to their bank accounts so someone else can access the account to make payments and manage it. 

5. Investment information 

This is information that cannot be ignored. Find out not only the location of your parents’ investments, but also the name and contact information of their advisor. You’ll also need to know what fees, required distributions and withdrawal penalties are. 

6. Deeds and titles 

Your dad may have kept the deeds and titles to your parents’ property in a box somewhere when you were a kid but do you know where those documents are now? Find out where the deeds to houses and land are as well as titles to their cars and/or recreational vehicles are. You may need them in order to liquidate their assets should a health crisis or sudden move to a care facility occurs.

7. Safe deposit box

Do you know if your parents have one? If yes, find out where they keep it and the keys and ask them what steps need to be taken to access the box. They may need to put your name on file so check with their bank. 

8. Hidden valuables

It’s been three years since my grandma died and my mum is still finding money and jewelry Grandma hid around her granny flat. Grandma lived through the Great Depression and had apparently stashed anything of value in the most curious places: money wrapped in plastic tucked inside the toilet cistern; jewelry hidden in the freezer, between her mattress, and even shoved deep inside the toes of some of her shoes – so it’s important to know if, and where your parents have hidden things. If they don’t want to tell you while they’re still alive, ask them to make a list and keep it with their wills. 

9. Wills, birth certificates, marriage licenses

Asking your living parent about their will may seem morbid and highly uncomfortable for everyone but dying without a will can be a costly affair and could start family infighting. It’s important to know if their wills are up-to-date. You’ll also need to know where their birth certificates and marriage license are located.

10. End-of-life decisions 

My father’s been telling me for years that if Mum dies, to put him in a boat and push him out to sea. While that seems rather melodramatic, it is important to know what your parents would like you to do after they die – do they want to be cremated? Buried at a cemetery? Have a huge party or somber church service? Find out what their end-of-life preferences are and let them know you intend to honor their wishes. 

For more information on this topic, check out our website, www.diesmart.com.


Just living together can cause unwanted estate planning problems

k11782415Many couples, especially those who get together later in life, are just living together.  For whatever reason, they’ve decided not to get married.  Living together, they accumulate stuff but who owns what?

One of the biggest problems with just living together is estate planning.  If you’re one of these couples and you’re not careful, your loved ones might end up losing their home and getting nothing.

If a partner dies without a will, this is called dying intestate.  In this instance, state intestacy laws determine who will inherit that partner’s assets.  In most cases, that means a biological relative may inherit those assets, not the surviving partner.  This is probably not what either of the partners really wanted.  To alleviate this problem, a will should be drafted and executed by each of the partners.   It should include a statement that directly disinherits biological relatives and leaves the assets to the surviving partner.

Another document each partner should prepare is an advance  healthcare directive and durable power of attorney.  Unless these documents specifically name the other partner to make their medical decisions for them, a physician will not follow the instructions of anyone except a biological relative because of potential family objections.

A further document that should be considered – a revocable trust.  This will enable the partners to transfer property and money between them and will allow one partner to transfer control of his or her assets upon death.

A last point you should be aware of – the unlimited marital estate inheritance exclusion.  This exclusion cannot be used by an unmarried couple.  Instead, there may be sizable inheritance tax repercussions if estate planning is not done correctly.

It would be smart for any couple living together without the protection of marital laws to consult an estate attorney to find out what the best plan of action is for them.

For more information about estate planning, check out our website www.diesmart.com.


Who decides whether to terminate end of life care?

featimg_2_11The answer may seem obvious.  You, or your designated agent make this decision.  You have prepared a living will and left instructions for your agent to follow or, if you are still able to speak for yourself, you tell the doctors what you want.

In Texas, this is not true.  Because of the Texas Advance Directives Act, a hospital ethics panel – not you or your family – decide whether to end care!

Last October, Evelyn Kelly learned this the hard way.  Her son, David Chris Dunn, a 46 year old former county sheriff had entered Houston Methodist Hospital, transferred from Bayshore Medical Center in Pasadena.  He had a mass on his pancreas and was in renal failure.

He’d been intubated for a month and the doctors had kept him sedated so he wouldn’t disturb the tube in his throat.  Dunn couldn’t verbally respond to questions but he followed his mother’s movements with his eyes and he could nod in response to his mother’s questions.

One day, the chairman of the hospital’s Bioethics Committee told Ms. Kelly that the doctors had met and decided it was time to end David’s medical care.  The hospital ethics committee was going to meet in 48 hours to make its final decision.  Ms. Kelly had made it clear that, as a born-again Christian, she wasn’t going to take her son off of life support.

“From Kelly’s standpoint, every second her son lived was a reason for hope, but for the doctors, it had meant weeks of treating a man who wasn’t showing any signs of improvement beyond simply having a pulse.”

Chris Dunn died in December 2015.

“In Texas, it doesn’t matter what instructions you’ve previously given or what your relatives say:  If you’re in critical condition, you’re dependent on machines to survive and hospital officials decide it’s time to pull the plug, you will die.  And it’s completely legal.”

It’s rare for a patient’s case to end up before a hospital ethics committee only because most patients die before the process is completed.    However, when it does, it’s very difficult to stop the process based on a law signed by George Bush in 1999.

There are several other cases that have been reported.  Here’s one that happened in 2005 when Zee Klein’s 91 year old mother, Edith Pereira, was taken to the Texas Medical Center with a urinary tract infection.  She had brittle diabetes and had gone blind from the disease but her heart and lungs were in good shape, she could still feed herself and she was fairly lucid most of the time.

The family was focused on getting the infection under control so didn’t argue when a doctor put Pereira on a dose of morphine that would keep her unconscious, and thus unable to eat and regulate her blood sugar.  When the medical team told Klein they wouldn’t install a feeding tube for her mother, Klein had a problem.  One of the doctors told her “ We feel that your mother’s spirit is telling us she wants to die!”

Klein was dumbfounded.  She managed to have her mother transferred to another hospital where she lived for about six months before dying.

Be sure you know what’s legal in your state and be prepared.  For more information about advance healthcare directives and living wills, go to www.diesmart.com.


Who makes decisions if your divorce is not finalized?


I came across a blog the other day that made a very important point.  If you are in the process of divorcing and have a medical emergency, who will make decisions on your behalf?

When Lamar Odom was recently found unconscious in a Nevada brothel and was rushed to the hospital, who did the officials call?  They called Khloe Kardashian.  Although they are in the process of finalizing their divorce, in the eyes of the law, they are still married and unless an advance directive for healthcare states otherwise, is the person who can make medical decisions on his behalf.

Unless you just don’t care, when you are getting a divorce, it’s critical that you update your advance directive to name someone other than your soon to be spouse to decide what the doctors should and shouldn’t do if you have an accident or a sudden health emergency.

To find out more about advance care directives and planning for the end of your life, go to www.diesmart.com.