Please - Do Not Neglect to Prepare a Living Will!

Albuquerque, NM(Zone 7a)

This began with an old thread under "What happens when it's me?"

I know this is an old topic, but I am resurrecting it because of its importance. I urge everyone right now to do a Living Will or Health Care Directive. Also do a Power of Attorney, and consider one that only goes into effect under specific conditions where you are incapable of acting on your own.

A month ago my 59 year old brother in law was quietly walking down a street in San Francisco with his 14 year old son who was visiting him for the summer. Harry suffered a brain aneurysm and fell to the ground. He was rushed to the hospital where brain surgery was performed, and he had a stroke the following day. In the weeks that have followed, a second brain surgery was done, and a tracheotomy was performed to help him breathe. He has faded in and out of consciousness. Last Friday, a permanent shunt was implanted in his head to drain fluids from around the brain. It was insufficient, and on Monday, a second shunt was implanted. Doctors cautiously believe he will eventually recover, but will be unable to work and faces a very long period of rehabilitative care. He cannot speak right now because of the tracheotomy and has been unresponsive after the second shunt surgery. He has been in Intensive Care for a full month now.

He left no medical instructions, no will, no anything. As a result, his two adult children (in their late 30s) from a previous marriage, hired an attorney and got a Durable Power of Attorney that gave them immediate control over all their father's affairs, regardless of his medical condition. They have not been in touch with him for many years, but they are legally his next of kin. My husband, his brother, has no legal say. They now have closed his apartment, sold his car and his furniture, and are legally in charge of all his property, finances, bank accounts and stock accounts. They said their main concern was getting reimbursed the $4,000 they paid the attorney to do the Durable Power of Attorney. In the past month they visited the hospital only twice, and that was because the doctor insisted on meeting with them for consent to further treatment. Blessedly, he has excellent medical insurance which pays all the current bills and will pay for future rehabilitative care, but only if he remains in the state of California. These adult children both live out of state and are in California only until the end of the month, when they will have finished disposing of his property. They plan to leave then, regardless of their father's condition, and they will not talk to us or anyone else.

Doctors believe he may recover, but it will take many, many months in a rehabilition facility when/if he is able to be moved. Right now they cannot even move him out of Intensive Care into a regular hospital rom. And he will have no apartment, no car, no money and no furniture. He will not be able to work and will have no income to replace these things. I doubt these adult children gave a thought to that, or that they care a whit.

Preparing for end of life or potential medical challenges is very difficult and emotional. We all tend to put it off, and the result can be a dreadful snarl of events that none of us would choose for ourselves. Plus, not speaking our wishes puts family members in the unfair and stressful position of having to think for us, to guess at what we would want when that should not be their responsibility.

There is a lot of information available through Google. We found these espeially helpful: (offers forms for purchase that are state-specific. We are using these.)

We also ordered QuickenWillmaker 2007 and found it helpful for guidance but frankly too full of complex legalease for us. We then ordered state-specific forms from the site and are now using those as the basis for our own final versions. For our needs, we chose "Durable Power of Attorney Effective Upon Disability". and a Healthcare Directive specific to New Mexico where we live. We will finish these this week and then take them to an attorney to review for legality, appropriate content, etc. and have them notarized. It is not necessary to hire an attorney to do the whole job, but it IS essential to have all documents checked out before finalizing them. Remember, you can always go back and revise the documents.

Please, please don't put this off. Stuff happens unexpectedly in life and then it's too late to go back and do the paperwork. My brother-in-law's situation was a wakeup call for us. We would give anything right now to know his wishes and be able to carry them out, but we can do nothing.

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