The tragic and untimely death of TV news personality Denise D’Ascenzo points out the fact of how fragile life can be. Denise was a presence in our homes on the nightly news for decades. Many of us felt like she was a trusted friend. She will be sorely missed.
Denise’s death is a reminder that it’s never too early to do estate planning.
We all know, but do not want to think about, the fact that life can change on a dime. With this knowledge we must think of the unthinkable and make sure our estate planning documents are in place.
At the very least we should appoint someone to be our power of attorney to make financial decisions for us and a health care representative to be able to make healthcare decisions for us.
For many people, the durable power of attorney is the most important estate planning instrument – even more important than a will. A power of attorney allows you to appoint another person – your “attorney-in-fact” – to step in and manage your financial affairs if and when you ever become incapacitated.
If there is no durable power of attorney a family must wait for a court to appoint a conservator to manage the incapacitated person’s affairs. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person that the individual would have preferred. In addition, once a conservatorship is in place, the representative may have to seek court permission to take planning steps that she could implement immediately under a simple durable power of attorney.
It is imperative that we express to our family what our healthcare wishes are. One of the best things we can do for our family is to take the burden off them in the event of a health care crisis by planning in advance and having documents in place.
A health care representative allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions. It will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out, and it is especially important to have a health care representative if you and your family may disagree about treatment. Without a health care representative, your doctor may be required to provide you with medical treatment that you would have refused if you were able to do so.
In general, a health care representative takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning treatment. How this works exactly can depend on the laws of the particular state and the terms of the health care representative itself. If you later become able to express your own wishes, you will be listened to and the health care proxy will have no effect.
Kilbourne & Tully, P.C. expresses our sincere condolences to the family of Denise D’Ascenzo and to her entire WFSB family.