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.

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.

What’s Changed in Your Life?

Estate planning is not a “set it and forget it” kind of thing. Your life changes, your assets change, the laws change — and if your plan doesn’t change, your family gets caught holding the bag. The people you love most end up bearing the brunt of your failure to act.

Conducting a proper review of your estate plan will help identify the potential need to update your plan because of:

Life transitions:  Have any babies been born, loved ones died, people gotten divorced or married?   If so, you need to revisit your plan.

Changes in the law:  Changes in federal and state tax laws may require updates to your healthcare and financial powers of attorney. State regulations can also be revised to open up new wealth planning strategies that should be a part of your estate plan.

Changes in assets:  Has your net worth gone up or down?  Have you invested in any new assets, such as businesses,  opened new bank accounts, retirement accounts, insurance policies, real estate or anything similar?  If so, your plan needs to be revisited.  And the spreadsheet of assets you have for your family (you DO have one, right?) needs updating.

Funding of assets and beneficiary designations:  One of the most common mistakes people make is not properly completing the transfer of assets into a trust within their estate plan.  Another common error is having beneficiary designations that are inconsistent with the distribution language in the estate plan.  We recommend a review of those matters annually.

If you do not review your plan and update it regularly, your family will have to deal with the consequences. If you would like more information about creating or updating your estate plan, call our office today at 720-248-7621 to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk. We normally charge $750 for an Estate Plan Review but if you are an existing client, we’ll waive that fee and if you are coming to us for the first time and book an appointment in April or May, we will waive all but $250 of the fee.  Call 720-248-7621 today and mention this article.

New Resources for Financial Caregivers

If you are helping an elderly parent or relative manage their finances or have been given a financial power of attorney, then you have both legal and ethical obligations in your role as a fiduciary.  And even if you are not currently, the chances that you may be asked to serve in this role for a parent, aging relative or friend in increasing.

According to the Administration of Aging, by 2030, there will be about 72.1 million older persons, more than twice the number of adults 65+ than there were in 2000.  This age group will account for 19% of the population, and  many of these individuals will need some assistance at some point from a financial caregiver.

Basically, a fiduciary is legally bound to:

Act in the person’s best interest.  You are not allowed to use their money for yourself or others and need to avoid any conflict of interest.

Manage assets carefully.  Pay bills on time and consider investment decisions carefully.  Get help if you need it.

Keep money and property separate from yours.  Be sure you keep your assets totally separate from those you are managing on behalf of another person.

Maintain good records.  You are responsible for accounting for all transactions.

The Dodd-Frank Act of 2010 created the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to protect consumers by making and enforcing consumer financial laws.  The CFPB recently contracted with the American Bar Association to develop four Managing Someone Else’s Money guides to help those who are acting as agents under (1) power of attorney, (2) court-appointed guardians or conservators, (3) trustees for revocable living trusts and (4) government benefits fiduciaries.

These guides help “lay fiduciaries” understand their responsibilities under the law, provide education on financial scams and exploitation and give tips on where to go for additional help from local, state and federal resources.

You can download these guides for free on the CFPB website.

If you would like more information about the responsibilities of a fiduciary or support talking with your parents about these issues, call our office today at 720-248-7621  to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.