The COVID pandemic brought renewed focus to healthcare decision-making. Over the past two years, countless families and individuals had to make crucial, urgent decisions on medical care for their loved ones. The consequences of these decisions are enormous, and too many people found themselves unprepared, not knowing what kinds of interventions were wanted or unwanted, how to balance aggressive treatments with comfort and quality-of-life, and when to stop life support.
Granted, your clients likely all have a Living Will and a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, because most estate planning attorneys include those as a standard part of their service when creating a Last Will and Testament. Yet how many of your clients have been guided to give serious thought to their healthcare wishes, and how many have conveyed that information to the Powers of Attorney they appointed to make decisions for them? In honor of National Healthcare Decisions Day on April 16, can you help them do more?
The #1 questions for your clients: “What is quality of life to you?” Just as with finances and legacy, this digs deeply into what they want and why, uncovering their ultimate goals and vision for themselves: “What do you need to be able to do, feel, understand, or participate in, that makes it worth it to use artificial means to prolong your body’s life, and at what point, if any, is that no longer worth it? Some people want every known intervention to keep their body alive as long as possible. Most people have some kind of limit, whether physical, cognitive, psychological, or otherwise. What, if anything, is yours?”
An example to get them thinking: One woman decided that if she’s at the point where 50% of the time she no longer recognizes her family, she wants no more artificial interventions and instead wants to live the best, most comfortable life she can until her body comes to a natural death. This decision, conveyed to her family and POA, frees them from arguing and guilt over whether to tell doctors to insert a feeding tube when dementia takes away her ability to swallow or she simply stops eating. She doesn’t want to extend her body’s life at that quality and she accepts the process of natural death. What would your clients want in these and other scenarios?
Do more than simply provide forms. Encourage reflection, thought, and wise decision-making. Then do what you can to ensure clients convey those decisions to their families, caregivers, and medical professionals, so everyone is on the same page. You will prevent untold nightmares for everyone involved.
Remember, too, that their decisions have wide-ranging implications for their finances. Your knowledge of their wishes may prompt different amounts of products like long-term care or disability insurance, or a restructuring of the portfolio to better ensure their wishes can be funded. Have these discussions. They serve you, your clients, and their families.