What Do Virginians Need to Know About Medical Aid in Dying?

Medical aid in dying has become an increasingly popular subject as more people wish to include in their estate plans what this means for them and their specific wishes. This can be a highly personal decision and not necessarily one that your friends and family members agree with.

A family member who is suffering might even request that their loved ones help with determining the options ahead of them. But you must educate yourself about what is and isn’t allowed under the law.

Here’s what you need to know about medical aid in dying:

  • There are strict eligibility requirements, such as that an adult must have six months or less to live and be able to take the medication on their own.
  • Medical aid in dying is optional and no person will ever be required to use it and it is illegal to force someone else to use it.
  • Most physicians support the practice of medical aid in dying.
  • Just having the option of medical aid in dying relieves a great deal of fear and anxiety even for those patients who ultimately do not choose it.
  • End of life care is improved by the provision of medical aid in dying. Studies have shown that comfort care improves for those patients who live in states with medical aid in dying.
  • A 2020 Gallup poll revealed that nearly 3 out of 5 residents in the United States support medical aid in dying.
  • Medical aid in dying is only authorized in specific states and this does not include Virginia. The included states are California, Washington, Oregon, New Jersey, Montana, Vermont, DC, Colorado, Maine, Hawaii, and New Mexico.

If you have questions about medical aid in dying or other issues, schedule a consultation with a Virginia Beach estate planning lawyer today.



I’ve Been Offered a Funeral Trust. What Is It?

Many years ago in estate planning it was very common for banks and other financial institutions to present you with a form that could be used for ensuring that you have a method to pay for your final arrangements.

A funeral trust is simply that: a trust that has been created to pay for those final expenses. More often than not, these forms were created by a bank rather than an estate planning attorney and while an estate planning attorney might still create such a document for you today, they are far less common than they used to be.

Usually these are presented to you by funeral homes in a pre-planning process. Although funeral trusts are potential still available to you, it can be a far better idea to sit down with your estate planning lawyer and discuss the types of trusts available to you and how you can anticipate moving forward effectively.

The support of an experienced and dedicated estate planning attorney can go a long way in helping you to accomplish your individual goals and verify that the proper documentation, such as powers of attorney, living wills and beneficiary forms are all properly completed and updated in line with your unique needs.

Schedule a consultation today if you are concerned about leaving behind assets that will enable your loved ones to pay for your funeral expenses and other costs. At our Virginia Beach estate planning law office, we’ll work with you directly to give you confidence that you estate plan is up to speed with your plans.



Planning Ahead to Live a More Purposeful Life

Planning ahead is not always an easy proposition, but taking the care to consider critical questions about your future and the future of your estate empowers your loved ones. It’s an act of care to take the time to consider how to protect your family members in the future.ThinkstockPhotos-516849552 (1)
By thinking about your wishes for your end of your life care, you not only leave behind a very powerful gift for your loved ones but you also gain greater clarity about how you plan to live your best life and to identify your purpose. There is a gift that you can give yourself as well as your loved ones by scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney.
Most people avoid this topic or scheduling the meeting because it is a scary and difficult topic for people to discuss. However, if you allow yourself to face the inevitable, that someday you may become unable to make decisions for yourself, or pass away suddenly, you will be able to make decisions that empower your loved ones well into the future.
You can live your dreams, make the necessary changes in your life and connect more deeply with others from the current time. Scheduling a consultation with an experienced estate planning attorney is often the first step for many people who are contemplating how to handle their future. Identifying your unique needs and determining what strategies or documents you may already have in place as well as those that may not be serving you any longer is extremely important for clarifying your expectations. Furthermore, this decreases the chances that your loved ones will end up in conflict in the future because you did not take the necessary steps to plan ahead. A Virginia estate planning lawyer can help.

More Americans Are Passing Away with Debt Than Ever

A recent study of 220 million consumers in Experian’s File One database, indicated that up to 73% of consumers are passing away with debt in high numbers. For those individuals who do not have a home loan, the average debt was $12,875. However, consumers with a mortgage carried approximately $61,554 in debt.
You may assume that debts are no longer your issue if you pass away, but that’s not true if there are assets inside your estate that may cover a portion or all of these debts. If you have communicated to your loved ones that you intend to give them particular assets, but those are seized and sold as part of your estate plan, you may wish to discuss your options for changing your estate plan with an experienced lawyer.
thumb_alternateThe types of debts most common included credit card balances, mortgage debt, auto loans, personal loans and student loans. Debt belongs to the deceased individual when he or she passes away. That means that creditors can pursue asset sold in the estate as part of their payment.
If there aren’t enough assets to satisfy debts, then creditors may lose out on all or some of their payments. But in the event that there are assets in the estate to pay out creditors, then your beneficiaries may actually receive nothing. This is why it may be important to discuss other opportunities such as a life insurance policy or advanced planning strategies with your knowledgeable estate planning attorney.

Health Care Wishes Can Be Kept On Smartphone Application

Yes, there’s an app for that.

Photo Credit: www.flickr.com
Photo Credit: www.flickr.com
“While most all Americans think it’s a good idea to talk with their loved ones about end-of-life care, less than 30 percent have actually done it,” according to a recent posting on the website of the American Bar Association.
The organization has come up with a free solution to this dilemma in the form of an application that works on both Android and Apple smartphones. It’s called My Health Care Wishes Lite and it “gives individuals the ability to store and share important health care wishes,” the website states.
“In an emergency, you’ll have immediate access to a PDF version of your advance directive. An important document like this doesn’t belong tucked away in a safety deposit box or in a file cabinet somewhere. Import and store it on your smartphone so that it’s there for medical decision-making anytime, anywhere.
“Your information is protected because the data resides only on your smartphone, not on any server or cloud service.”
“Most of us haven’t given much thought to health consent and other related matters surrounding medical complications, life support or end of life,” according to the page for the app on Google Play. “But seeing the service provided by this app the added value and purpose is clear: this is certainly something anyone 18-plus could use for peace of mind. In the future, health care professionals will look first on your smartphone for the easily recognizable My Health Care Wishes icon instead of searching for a wallet card.”
There is a “pro” version of the application, which sells for $3.99 and offers more functions.
“It also allows you to create a digital library containing your advance care plan and those of your spouse, parents, children, and anyone you care for,” according to the ABS. “Your loved ones may be away at college, in a retirement community or nursing home, working in a different city, or under the same roof. Imagine having your wishes and those belonging to your loved ones stored in one place, just a click away. You can carry their health care wishes on your smartphone and they can carry your wishes on theirs.”

Difficult Discussion On Dying Can Be Helped By Web Resources

Almost nobody wants to have “The Conversation.”

85 years
(Photo credit: jaded one)
Talking to an older relative, whether it’s a mother, father or sibling, or a friend about death is a burdensome task most people put off until, of course, it’s too late to have anything at all to discuss. It’s probably at that point most wish they had found the strength of will and the courage to address the topic a long time ago.
Fortunately, in the Internet age there exist sites that can help, if only a little, to push The Conversation along, notes a recent item on the website of The New York Times.
“You can log onto the Conversation Project, for example,” author Paula Span wrote. “Established two years ago by the former syndicated columnist Ellen Goodman, it will guide you through discussions of fears, values, medical options. Or you can turn to Prepare, created last year by a geriatrician, Dr. Rebecca Sudore of the University of California, San Francisco. Readers here have also recommended the Five Wishes document. And to be sure doctors follow your or your relatives’ wishes precisely, a P.O.L.S.T. form is your strongest protection when frailty or illness becomes advanced.”
These sites and forms help, Span notes, but she goes on to point out that The Conversation still has to take place.
“But then what? There is still scant discussion, except from experienced hospice staff members, about what to expect when death comes very close. How do you deal with pain, everyone’s great fear? What is dyspnea (answer: shortness of breath), and what can be done to ease it? How is palliative care different from hospice care, and which do you need? What are the actual signs, physical and emotional, of approaching death? Families and friends need to know these things, especially when they are trying to help a loved one die at home, where most people say they want to die, although only a minority do.”
The Internet once again rides to the rescue, according to the writer, in the form of a “new web resource from the National Institutes of Health aims to help fill this gap. NIHSeniorHealth.gov already covers an array of topics of interest to older adults and their caregivers, including exercise, diet, long-term care, drugs and management of common diseases.”
“Its latest module addresses the end of life. Developed by the National Institute of Nursing Research, the section answers questions about death and dying. I found it candid and comprehensive — it takes on subjects from opiates to autopsies — and well-designed for older users, with brief, clearly written segments in large print.”

End-Of-Life Websites Popping Up All Over

A recent article in The New York Times focused on a woman facing tragic irony: Just as she was developing a web-based business focusing on end-of-life planning, the East Hampton, N.Y., resident received word that her brother had been killed in a traffic accident.
“Suddenly, her fledgling business, Everplans, a website that helps people create detailed end-of-life plans, took on greater meaning,” according to the story.

Funeral For A Friend & Co-Worker
(Photo credit: Tobyotter)
“In the middle of building this site to help all of these hypothetical people that might die someday, my family experienced a tragedy,” Abby Schneiderman told the newspaper. “My brother was 51 and had all of the resources to have a plan in place. But my family was still left with a huge amount of logistics and complicated decisions that we had to make.”
“Just as she was building the tool to help people navigate through the mental fog that follows such a devastating loss, she and her family were experiencing it,’ the article noted.
“It turned what had been a project into a mission,” said Ms. Schneiderman, now 33. “And we wanted to make sure that nobody was left in the same situation my family was in, which was without a plan.”
The story went on to explain that the woman’s business startup is part of a growing trend.
“The number of end-of-life planning and document storage sites is on the rise, like AfterSteps.com and Principled Heart, and many of those, too, have sprung from personal loss or out of necessity. Other websites deal with a specific piece of planning, such as online memorials, sending emails from the grave … or what should happen to your Facebook account. And some estate planning lawyers are said to be working on storage sites of their own.
“Whatever method you use, what’s most important is that you put a plan in place and let your inner circle know where to find it.”

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