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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Advance Healthcare Directives -- like a free toy?

Recently I have completed a great number of advance healthcare directives (also called "Living Wills" in some states) for clients. I once read an article which suggested that a Directive was something on the periphery of an estate plan -- it even indicated that a directive should be just given by the attorney "for free" -- as if it were incidental to the "real" estate plan. I guess a "real" estate plan to this author would only be the money left behind to a client's heirs, and that the client's own health and comfort is of less importance.

Now, I am certainly not advocating overcharging clients, but I object to the idea that an end-of-life Healthcare Directive is something like a free toy in a cereal box. A Directive is simply not an inconsequential part of an estate plan. Sometimes, its the only and the most important part.

Very recently I prepared an estate plan for a middle age client who had little money, and no family. She only had a small handful of concerned friends. Her only remaining asset, her health, had been taken by cancer. In that case, the directive was the only aspect of her personal "estate."

When we think of an "estate," we understandably think of money. However, our "estate" is in fact everything -- and the most important part involves our health, and our dignity.

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