One Month to National Healthcare Decisions Day

It is one month until National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).  This day is part of a national movement to help increase the number of U.S. citizens who have their healthcare preferences documented and have empowered someone of their choosing to act on their behalf to make decisions when they are unable to.

Some of the grim facts:

The U.S. Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, in a 2003 article, “Advance Care Planning: Preferences for Care at the End of Life,” found the following:

  • Less than 50 percent of the severely or terminally ill patients studied had an advance directive in their medical record.
  • Only 12 percent of patients with an advance directive had received input from their physician in its development.
  • Between 65 and 76 percent of physicians whose patients had an advance directive were not aware that it existed.

In support of getting these critical documents in place for everyone, Holmes Shirley Law is offering 20% off on all healthcare directives during the entire month of April.  We are also working to help promote the day and knowledge about healthcare decisions in the Denver Metro area.

Please call us today to learn more – 720-248-7621.

Preparing for Fire Season

4302-black-forest-fire-coloradoWildfire season is upon us.  After the last two years, those of us living in the South Metro area of the Front Range are particularly aware  of the risks we face here in Colorado.   This risk is still  very real despite the good moisture we have received this winter and spring. Make sure you, your organization, and your family are prepared for the active season ahead with this Wildfire Checklist.   Don’t live in a wildfire-prone area? Click here to check out these tips from Ready.gov on preventing home fires.  

Vacations are the Perfect Time for Families To Talk About Estate Planning

Memorial Weekend is coming, and it traditionally has marked the start of the “summer” season.   I know we will be hosting and attending BBQs and neighborhood gatherings.   We are also busy finalizing summer plans.    These plans, like those of most Americans, include visiting with our extended families.  While there are few perfect times to talk with parents about their estate plan, the relaxed times you spend together on vacation can be one of them.

Here are some tips on how to conduct this critical conversation:

Find a good place to start.  One of the best ways to ease your parents into a financial discussion is to bring up your own.  Tell your parents that you were looking into your own estate plan and wondering if they had already executed their own.  Sometimes you can use scare tactics to good effect – there are usually a lots of stories about celebrities or others who have neglected to plan and paid the price with dire consequences.  If you missed these headlines,  read our March Newsletter for an article on the late Paul Walker’s estate.

Take it easy.  If you feel that parents may need some help with organizing their financial lives, be reassuring rather than applying pressure.  Let them know that you want to make sure their financial independence is kept intact for as long as possible.  Take things one step at a time, such as extending an offer to help them use online bill pay or assist them with organizing their information at tax time.

Respect boundaries.  Many parents feel uncomfortable discussing their finances with their children.  If you face this obstacle, let your parents know that you at least need to know where to find their important documents, or who does know where to find these documents besides them.   Reassure them that you aren’t attempting to control them in anyway but you simply want to help and make things as easy as possible for you and your siblings when something does happen.

Offer options.   Discuss the safety of important documents and suggest they either use a safety deposit box or fire-proof, water-proof safe for originals and have a third party, such as an attorney, financial planner, one of the family, or a trusted friend keep copies.   Learn and share information about services such as DocuBank, that provide online storage of medical directives and other important healthcare information and the importance of everyone’s primary care doctor having copies of these documents as well.

Sometimes initiating a conversation with parents about estate planning can be easier with the help of a Personal Family Lawyer®.   At Holmes Shirley Law, we can help.  Call our office today at 720-241-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk about designing an estate plan that fits the needs of you and your family.

How Advance Medical Directives Became a Way of Life in One American Town

This is a heart warming story about a town has done what National Healthcare Directives Day hopes to achieve for all of America…

With just over 50,000 residents, La Crosse is a lot like other small American towns – but there is one thing that makes La Crosse stand out:  96% of La Crosse residents who have died have had an advance medical directive in place.  Nationally, the percentage of Americans with an advance directive stands at about 30%.

Actually, there are two things that make La Crosse stand out:  the town also has lower healthcare costs than any other place in the U.S.  And these two things – a high incidence of residents with advance directives and low healthcare costs — are inextricably linked.

According to a recent NPR story, all this came about because of one man:  Dr. Bud Hammes, Medical Humanities Director at Gundersen Hospital in La Crosse.  Dr.Hammes often found himself sitting with families of terminally ill patients, trying to figure out what to do next.  He said the conversations were excruciating: “Did mom ever say anything to you?” “Do you know what dad wants?”  He said that the moral distress of the families was tangible.

Dr. Hammes knew that this could be avoided, since most patients were usually sick for years.  So he started training nurses to ask patients if they wanted to sign an advance directive and over the years planning for death has become a way of life in La Crosse.

And the lower healthcare costs?  Dr. Hammes said that the reduction in spending was an accident, a byproduct of letting people make their own choices.  He said that when you let patients choose and direct their care, they often make a much less expensive choice.

You can listen to the entire NPR story here:

NPR: Living Wills are the Talk of The Town in La Crosse, Wis.

Making end of life plans is one of the most comforting things you can do for your loved ones.  We strongly believe in the importance of this for every adult, and encourage families to have conversations about each others wishes.  To put the proper protections in place for your family, contact our office at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.  We normally charge $500 for a Family Wealth Planning Session, but because this planning is so important, I’ve made space for the next two people who mention this article to have a complete planning session at no charge. Call today and mention this article.

National Healthcare Decisions Day – April 16th

nhddlogo

Holmes Shirley Law, along with other national, state and community organizations, will be involved with National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD).  This is a national effort to highlight the importance of advance healthcare decision-making.

Having swift and immediate access to well-drafted healthcare directives in a medical emergency can reduce stress on patients, hospital staff, and most importantly, loved ones.   Additionally, making healthcare decisions before an actual medical emergency is critical.  

The comprehensive estate plans provided by Holmes Shirley Law include the personalized healthcare directives that clients need in a medical emergency.  These documents can include a healthcare power of attorney, living will, HIPAA release, among others.   Our firm also emphasizes to clients the importance of talking to their family about their wishes.  These conversations can make difficult situations later on much easier.  

Holmes Shirley Law also takes its commitment to healthcare decisions one step further by making sure that clients’ healthcare directives are immediately available to family members and to the hospital in an emergency.  With a membership in DocuBank provided as part of all estate planning done with Holmes Shirley Law, clients know that a hospital can get their legal directives and other critical medical information around the clock, just by carrying a wallet card.

In honor of NHDD, Holmes Shirley Law is providing information and tools for the public to talk about their wishes with family, friends and healthcare providers.  The firm can also assist with the execution of written advance directives (healthcare power of attorney and living will) in accordance with Colorado state laws.

Specifically, on April 16, Holmes Shirley Law will be hosting an informational session on healthcare directives at 9:30 am at their office in downtown Castle Rock as well as offering ½ off preparation of simple healthcare documents (a $125.00 savings) from 10:30 am until 2:30 pm.  Space is limited so please contact us at 720-248-7621 to reserve your spot or visit their website at: www.ColoradoEstateLaw.com for more information.

Other good information about National Healthcare Decisions Day is available at www.nhdd.org and www.docubank.org.

National Estate Planning Awareness Week

History of National Estate Planning Awareness Week

In 2008, the NAEPC Education Foundation worked with a number of Congressional leaders to pass House Resolution 1499 which proclaimed the third week in October as National Estate Planning Awareness Week. According to the resolution passed by Congress, “Many Americans are unaware that lack of estate planning and financial illiteracy may cause their assets to be disposed of to unintended parties by default through the complex process of probate.”

The resolution goes on to state that “careful planning can greatly assist Americans in preserving assets built over a lifetime for the benefit of family, heirs, or charities.” It is estimated that over 120 million Americans do not have proper estate plans to protect themselves or their families in the event of sickness, accidents, or untimely death. This costs many families wasted dollars and hours of hardship each year that can be minimized with proper planning.

Help Dispel the Myth That Estate Planning is Only for the Rich and the Elderly

Another startling statistic from the 2010 Industry Trends Survey of estate planners found that 62% of the respondents believed that many American do not plan because they have the erroneous assumption that estate planning is only for the wealthy or the elderly.

Estate planning is important for adults of all ages. Read the September 27, 2011 article in U. S. News & World Report entitled “What You Need to Know About Estate Planning” which highlights the importance of single 20-somethings having an estate plan that includes a medical directive in the event of unexpected injury or illness.  Another interesting article worth a read is this article published in the Ventura County Reporter entitled “Where There’s a Will.”

For young families, estate planning is particularly important, as those who stand to lose the most are their young children. In the event of the death of both parents, who will care for the children? Who will handle the affairs of the estate and ensure that property will be transferred according to the wishes of the deceased parents? If there is no estate plan or will, the courts will appoint a guardian for the children, and the guardian may be an individual who does not share the values and religious beliefs of the deceased parents.

Or in the event of divorce and remarriage, how will property pass from the former spouse to the children living in a household with a stepparent?

In the event of the death of the primary breadwinner, is there sufficient life insurance coverage for purposes of income replacement to support the surviving spouse and children who were dependent upon the primary breadwinner for their daily maintenance and support.

Advanced age and substantial wealth are not the primary indicators of the need for an estate plan. Young families, especially those with children who have special medical or educational needs, should seek the advice of an estate planning attorney who can guide them in providing for the current and future needs of their young children.

If you want additional information about estate planning no matter your age or economic status, please call our office at 720-248-7621 to begin to get your questions or visit our Resources Page for additional links to website that can provide you with the information you need to protect assets and, most importantly, your loved ones!

Estate Planning as a Rite of Passage

Why Every 18-year-old “Kid” Should Have An Estate Plan

We are fairly certain the last thing your 18-year-old kid is thinking about is an estate plan.  And you are probably not thinking about one for them either, but you should be.  Here’s why:  once your child turns 18, in Colorado they have reached the age of majority.

What exactly does this mean?   Individuals that are age 18 or older are treated as adults, with some exceptions, such as drinking alcoholic beverages, renting cars, and purchasing a hotel room. (More about acts allowed in Colorado upon age of majority).When an individual reaches the age of majority his or her parents are no longer liable for their child’s actions.   And transversely,  as parents you can no longer legally make many decisions for them, including decision about their medical treatment or even being entitled to know about their medical records.

Can you imagine your child needing medical treatment in some college town and you are not able to help in any way without a court saying you can?  It can, and does, happen.

What you need to do is have your adult child fill out a Medical Power of Attorney (also known as a health care proxy) with a HIPAA release (HIPAA refers to the Health Information Portability and Accountability Act, the law that makes health records private for those over the age of 18).  On the form, your child can designate you as their agent, allowing you to have access to medical records and to make health care decisions for them in case they cannot do so themselves.  Your child can also execute a Declaration of Medical and Surgical Treatment (also known as a living will) that specifies their preferences surrounding life support, pain management and other medical treatment preferences.

While you’re at it, have your child complete a financial Durable Power of Attorney  as well, which will give you the right to oversee their finances.  This document can be drafted to be effective upon signing or only in case of your child’s incapacity.

Hopefully you will never need to use these three documents, but having these necessary protections in place will give you both peace of mind.

Be one of the first two families to mention this post  and I’ll create these three legal documents for your child before going off to college as my gift to you plus waive the regular Family Wealth Planning Session fee (a $750 value).   Call today:  720-248-7621.

Additionally, share this great guide, So You’re 18 Now – A Survival Guide for Young Adults, put together by the Colorado Bar Association with your child.