Thinking about your own death is a part of estate planning

According to a recent Los Angeles Times article, less than one-third of Americans make their health care wishes known prior to a critical illness or injury. Regardless of what your actually health care wishes are, that can be a problem.

Failing to put plans in place can be an emotional burden to loved ones. And for those who don't want family to take extraordinary measures to preserve their life in the event of accident resulting in incapacity, failure to have plans in place can also be a financial burden.

Thinking about your own death and the circumstances surrounding it is not a popular topic for meditation, but it is important to consider it seriously when coming up with your estate plan.

Of prime importance is to decide whom you want to make your medical decisions in the event you become incapacitated. This can be done in many states by filling out an Advance Healthcare Directive. When filling out this form, some physicians say it's better to avoid listing medical procedures you do or don't want and instead list limitations and situations you do not want to go through.

For example, saying "no feeding tube" doesn't make sense for somebody who intends "no permanent feeding tube," as there are certain situations where a temporary feeding tube is used to help restore an individual to good health. Other situations might include not wanting to live in a state in which you can't recognize loved ones or in which you cannot see to your own personal hygiene. It will differ for different people.

Another important consideration to keep in mind for the Advance Healthcare Directive is where you want to receive care, whether in outpatient service, a hospital, a nursing home or a hospice. All these things can be specified on the form.

Thinking about your own decline and death is perhaps not a comfortable topic to ponder, but it is well worth it to do so, both for your own peace of mind and that of your family.

Source: Los Angeles times, "Having to think about the unthinkable," Steve Lopez, December 14, 2011.

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