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If a loved one is incapacitated, many do not know what to do

According to most studies, few people have put serious consideration into plans for the end of their lives. These decisions include not only who will receive their assets but what steps will be taken should they become incapacitated and unable to speak for themselves. In Florida, many may assume that their loved ones know what they will want or not want to happen in such cases. However, their assumptions may be very wrong.

A recent survey of senior veterans revealed that the majority of those questioned said they had discussed their health care preferences with a proxy (usually a spouse). However, those proxies had a very vague idea of their loved one's exact wishes. For example, when asked whether their loved one would accept life-saving treatment if the results would mean severe pain or impairments, most did not know the answer and had never considered the question.

Doctors say many seniors do not know how to have these discussions with their loved ones and are not aware of the types of choices their proxies may be forced to make. About 70 percent of chosen proxies had no clear understanding of their loved one's wishes. About 40 percent of those in the study did not have a living will or a designated power of attorney for medical or financial decisions.

End-of-life decisions are difficult enough when one has an understanding of the topic. However, with medical issues, there are many unknowns and variables that may occur if one becomes incapacitated. When planning for these contingencies, the help of a legal professional is invaluable. In Florida, the best approach is to meet with an estate planning attorney for guidance through the process and answers to any questions that will ensure one's goals are fully met.

Source: CBS News, "Many end-of-life talks end in confusion, study shows", Dennis Thompson, March 24, 2017

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