Having A Will and Knowing What it Does Are Two Different Things

Many people have some sort of planning done for their estate when they pass. They have either a living will or some sort of other directive that allocates their assets to the proper parties. Many people however, do not take the time to update their wills, which can be catastrophic. For one, most people who have created a will may have done it years ago, which not only gives you plenty of time to forget exactly what your will entails but also can leave out family members or other individuals that were not in your life previously. Many kids don’t know anything about their parents wills and it turns out their parents actually don’t know that much about their wills either and this is a serious problem. Check out this article about Tom Brokaw and his daughter on a TED talk in 2012. 

By: Academy Guest
Blogger, Randi Siegel, President of DocuBank Posted in
General

“Unfortunately, I
don’t know a lot about my living will. In fact, I’m not even sure where it
is at this point.

-Tom
Brokaw

The
Academy’s Steve Hartnett recently pointed out in a blog post that
Healthcare
Documents May Be the Most Important Thing We Do
. But how effective
are these documents on their own? Clearly not very, if Tom Brokaw is any
example.

In
a 2012
TED talk between Brokaw and
his daughter, Dr. Jennifer Brokaw, it is quickly made clear that Mr. Brokaw’s
wishes aren’t exactly as in order as he had thought. “You know I have a living
will, and your mother does as well,” he begins. But his daughter replies that
she knows nothing about his living will.
The audience responds with
laughter and applause while Mr. Brokaw chuckles and looks a bit abashed. And in
response, he comes clean and admits: “Unfortunately, I don’t know a lot about
my living will. In fact, I’m not even sure where it is.”

This
brief exchange reveals volumes: an advance directive was created, but was not
shared with close relatives and is certainly not available in an emergency. As
Dr. Jennifer Brokaw observes, just creating an advance directive is frequently
not enough; an actual conversation with loved ones goes a long way toward
making sure clients actually get their desired results.

More
evidence:
New York
Times’ Paula Span

recently reported on numerous cases of advance directives being forgotten or
misplaced, and thus not available at the hospital. Or the family was unaware
that a directive even existed while the document was overlooked in the chart by
medical personnel. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

The
solution is twofold. Clients need:

    • Instant,
      electronic access to their advance directives
      . Of course Mr.
      Brokaw and everyone else should share copies of their advance directive
      with loved ones and physicians. But as Span points out – this isn’t
      enough. Many people don’t have the capacity for thinking about a legal
      document when they’re rushing to their loved one’s side in a medical
      emergency. Or they may be alone in a crisis. The answer: store advance
      directives electronically. This could be in an online registry or mobile
      app. These services, which are operated by both private and not-for-profit
      organizations, offer a variety of options with different levels of service
      and features. A handful of states also operate their own registries. Many
      also include valuable emergency contact and medical emergency information.
      With electronic access, people don’t have to worry about where they may
      have put their documents – they will always be accessible to hospital
      staff from a website or via fax or email simply by carrying their
      registry’s wallet card.
    • Talk with loved
      ones

      about their goals for care and for living with illness.
      The Conversation
      Project

      is a good resource to help clients with this. Some registries also assist
      and prompt clients to have this discussion with family members.

The
takeaway from Tom Brokaw: don’t just draft your clients’ advance directives.
Make the documents work for your clients as intended. Consider registering
clients’ directives and also giving them the tools they need to talk with loved
ones about their wishes.

Randi J.
Siegel, 
MBA, is the President of DocuBank (docubank.com), which ensures
that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000+
enrollees are available 24/7/365 through the largest advance directives
registry in the U.S., as well as access to an online safe for storage of
digital assets and other vital documents. Working with estate planning
professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning
conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries.
A member of the Philadelphia Estate Planning Council, the International Society
of Advance Care Planning and the Coalition to Transform Advanced Care, Randi is
active in health education and public engagement related to advance care
planning/advance directives. She serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National
Healthcare Decisions Day initiative and as a board member of the Center for
Advocacy for the Rights and Interests of the Elderly. Randi is an ongoing
contributor to the Academy blog.

Academy
Guest Blogger


American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys, Inc.

9444 Balboa Avenue, Suite 300


San Diego, California 92123


Phone: (858) 453-2128

 

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