Wine Talk June 24
The Importance of Legacy Planning – Part 2
Remember when we were kids? We loved to make wishes—blowing out birthday candles, throwing money into a wishing well, or like George Bailey in It’s a Wonderful Life, “I wish I had a million dollars!” As adults, we no longer wish for school to be canceled or to get asked to prom. Instead, our wishes are more about our family and loved ones.
Five Wishes is about having an advanced care plan to ensure the health care treatment you receive is consistent with your wishes should you be unable to make your own decisions or speak for yourself.
A significant illness or accident isn’t fun to think about or discuss. However, our experience is that the Five Wishes program makes it easier. Five Wishes allows you to express your care wishes in writing and can help you appoint a surrogate decision-maker if you become unable to make your own decisions.
Most have heard of a Living Will; many of you probably have one. Five Wishes is a living will that allows you to include your personal, emotional, and spiritual needs in addition to your medical wishes if you are unable to speak for yourself.
Five Wishes is an easy-to-fill-out workbook that was created with the help of the American Bar Association and health care experts. Even if you already have a living will, Five Wishes may give you many ideas for updating your living will…things you may have never thought about before.
Five Wishes is divided into five sections.
- The first wish is to identify the person you want to make health care decisions for you when you can’t. Each of us needs to put in writing the person we trust to be our health care agent. Consider the following when selecting your health care agent:
- Would this person be willing to speak on your behalf?
- Would they be able to act on your wishes separate from their feelings that may differ from yours?
- Do they live close, or could they travel to be at your side if needed?
- Is this someone you trust with your life? (An ex-wife might not be a great choice)
- Once your health care agent has been identified, you will determine the kind of medical treatment you want and what types of treatment you don’t want. This document is not a “Do Not Resuscitate” order or DNR. You will need to establish a DNR outside of Five Wishes. This section is commonly referred to as a “living will.” It will help you identify what “life-support treatment” means to you. Additional instructions based on your personal beliefs can be added if you cannot take care of yourself mentally or physically.
- Wish number three will allow you to identify how comfortable you want to be. This wish could include managing your pain even if it makes you drowsy, essential personal care such as shaving, cleanliness, warm baths, and spiritual care, including religious readings.
- The fourth wish covers how you want people to treat you. This section will allow you to state if you want people with you, ideas for your surroundings, such as pictures of loved ones, and if you prefer to die in your home, if possible.
- The final wish is what you want your loved ones to know. This wish encourages you to express matters of profound importance in an age where families often live apart. It allows you to state how you want to be remembered and will enable you to communicate practical matters such as preferences for memorial or burial and what to include in the service. Examples could include: “I have appreciated our time together, when you were kind to me, when you loved me, when you let me be myself, when you were there for me, and for many other times I haven’t mentioned.” OR “I believe that birth, life, and death are a cycle. They are all beautiful, and each should be celebrated. Therefore, I want my loved ones to celebrate the time we had together.”
Finally, it provides you the opportunity to document who knows your final wishes.
Think back about making wishes when we were children. Do you remember believing that your wishes would only come true if they were kept a secret from other people? As adults, we finally get to share our wishes!
While many people prefer to keep their legal documents private, it is essential that you communicate your wishes with your family or friends who are close to you, your health care agent, and your doctors.
You should also keep Five Wishes in a readily accessible place. As your advisors, we can keep a copy in our files so the rest of your family knows where they can get a copy if they need it.
Often, as we go through life, our plans change, and Five Wishes can be updated to accommodate those changes. It is a good idea to update your wishes when one of the following occurs:
Decade – when you start a new decade of your life.
Death – if you experience the death of a loved one.
Divorce – if you experience a divorce or other major family change.
Diagnosis – if you are diagnosed with a serious health condition.
Decline – if you experience a significant decline or deterioration of an existing health condition, especially when it diminishes your ability to live independently.
Five Wishes can be updated when circumstances change: just fill out your form, sign, date (notarize if necessary), file, and tell your family members.
For your next step, email george@napawealth for a complimentary copy of the Five Wishes workbook.