Estate planning traditionally revolves around the intelligent distribution of financial assets after your death, but during more recent times the practice has expanded. In the West we tend to hold death at arm’s length and avoid the subject, but the truth is that it is an inevitable part of life itself, and it should be planned for like anything else. Most people are going to go through a period of time at the end of their lives when it will become difficult or impossible to communicate their wishes. This is why living wills and durable medical powers of attorney have become staples of comprehensive estate plans.
However, these advance directives are legal documents pertaining to profound and emotional potential scenarios, and there are subtle aspects of end of life planning that may not be routinely included in these documents. With this in mind the directive known as Five Wishes was created in Florida back in 1996. It is now recognized in a total of 42 states, and New York is among them. One way to use the Five Wishes concept is to simply answer five questions, and in so doing you state your end of life wishes in a complete and holistic manner. These are the five questions:
- Who would I like to empower to make medical decisions in my behalf?
- What medical treatments will I allow?
- How would I like to be cared for?
- How would I like others to treat me?
- What would I like to communicate to my loves ones?
The first two wishes equate to the assignment of a medical power of a attorney and the creation of a living will. The others involve the subtleties of end of life planning, such as pain management preferences, personal grooming, potential hospice care, spiritual preferences, funeral plans, and personal messages to your loved ones. So if you recognize the need for incapacity planning but are unsure of where to begin, it may be a good idea to consider the Five Wishes as your starting point.