Death and Dying

Planning For the Future

Death and dying is an unpleasant fact of life for us all. The reality of death and dying is magnified for those living with a chronic illness like HIV. The scene is played out time and time again. Two partners, a married couple, or a single mom, raising a family, owning a home, and living life to it's fullest. And then the unthinkable happens and the lives they cherish are gone. In the blink of an eye, everything you know and love can change for ever.
If you or a loved one becomes too ill to make decisions, who will make them for you? If you are a single mom and get too sick to care for your children, who will care for them? Who will live in your house if one of you die unexpectedly? None of these questions are pleasant ones, but are important ones to ask now. We all need to think about the unthinkable when planning for the future. But what can we do?

Talk To Your Family

The first and probably the most important step in planning for your future is sitting down with your family, your partner, your husband or your wife to make your wishes known. Everyone in your family needs to be aware of your medical wishes in the event you become too sick to make your wishes known to medical providers. Have a very frank discussion with your loved ones outlining what you want done to live and to what extent you want medical providers to go in order to keep you alive.
Who do you want to have your house? How will your finances be handled? Who will handle your personal matters when you are gone? All these things must be discussed in detail to assure your wishes are honored. But just talking to loved ones is not enough. Legal steps must be taken to assure that your wishes will be honored.

Take Legal Steps

Your Advanced Directive
An advanced directive is a legal document detailing your wishes in the event you are unable to make them known yourself.

An advanced directive allows you to appoint someone (your "appointee") to speak for you and make decisions regarding your medical care when you are unable to make those decisions yourself. But having an advanced directive is not enough.

Keep Your Family Informed
Talk to your family about your directive. Give copies to your appointee as well as your attorney, family members, your doctor, your clergy and anytime you are admitted to the hospital. Keep a copy with your medical record in a safe deposit box. Keep in mind when creating an advanced directive that it is best to consult an attorney. Also make sure the person you choose will follow your directions and insist that your wishes be honored. Finally, make your wishes known to brothers, sisters, parents, and any other family member who you think may be in a position to make medical decisions for you.

Durable Power of Attorney
If you were to become incapacitated for some reason, who would make financial decisions for you? Would your home be protected from others?

Would your bills continue to be paid? To assure yourself these and other financial matters are taken care of, you need a durable power of attorney. Simply put, a durable power of attorney (DPA) is a legal document that allows you to appoint one person (the "appointee") to take care of your legal and financial matters in the event you are not able to do so. Again, while an attorney is not necessary, it is advised that one should be involved. A lawyer can tailor your DPA to meet your needs and assure that the DPA will not be abused or misinterpreted.

Important Information!
Keep in mind that you must have a separate DPA for financial matters and one for health related matters.

Take Care of Your Children
Finally, you must plan for the future of your children. Who will care for them in the event of an illness or death? A Stand-by Guardianship Order is a legal document that gives the person of your choice temporary guardianship of your children in the event you are unable to care for your children yourself. The order only takes affect when you become incapacitated and usually needs to be re-evaluated every 60 days. A guardianship order is a permanent order that replaces the parent as the decision-maker for the child.

Whether it's your finances, your health, or your children, you must plan ahead for the unthinkable future. Consulting an attorney now will make the ultimate transition easier and less stressful for your love ones. And in the process you will gain peace of mind that your wishes will be heard and your loved ones will be taken care of. For more information consult your attorney or a legal advocate in your area. To find an attorney that specializes in powers of attorney and advanced directives, call your State Bar Association.

Continue Reading