Before funerals at funeral homes, we should be getting our medical, legal, and financial affairs in order. No matter how young or old we are, we could get a terminal illness, be in a life-threatening accident, or simply die suddenly. If our affairs are not in order, then we leave a mess for our families to try to figure out, which will only add to the stress they have because of our deaths.
We are still able to make medical decisions for ourselves and let our wishes be known, but if we become unable to do these things, what then? In order to have your medical decisions and wishes followed, you need to have several documents in place.
The first document is a medical power of attorney, which is a legal document. A medical power of attorney designates someone (and an alternate if the first person can’t) to be your medical advocates and make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself.
If you don’t have a medical power of attorney, then medical professionals will decide what’s in your best interest from a medical standpoint, and some of those decisions may run counter to what you actually want.
In addition to a medical power of attorney, you also need to have a living will. A living will is a legal document that specifies what you want done in a life-threatening situation. If you want every possible medical intervention to prolong your life, you can opt for that in your living will. If you don’t want medical intervention, but simply want to die naturally, you can also opt for that in your living will.
However, a living will doesn’t exclude normal life-saving medical procedures like intubation and resuscitation. If you don’t want to be resuscitated or intubated, you need two documents signed by a medical doctor.
One document is a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) order. The other document is a Do Not Intubate (DNI) order.
Make sure that the people you choose as your medical powers of attorney have copies of your living will, DNR, and DNI.
If you die without a legal document directing who will execute your estate and who will inherit what you leave behind, then the estate will go into probate where a court will decide how things are handled.
To make sure your estate is distributed the way you want it to be, you need a will or a revocable trust. You can either have an attorney draw these up or you can use software that will let you create them by simply answering a few questions. A will and revocable trust are valid as long as you have signed and dated them.
To get your financial affairs in order, you need to make sure that someone has the legal authority to handle financial matters if you’re unable to. Two ways to do this are to create a durable power of attorney (which ends when you die, since the people named in your will or revocable trust now have the legal right), or to give someone you trust access to your financial accounts by adding them on.
If you’d like guidance on getting your affairs in order before funeral homes events have to take place, our empathetic and knowledgeable staff at Hopler & Eschbach Funeral Home can assist you. You can stop by our funeral home at 483 Chenango St., Binghamton, NY 13901, or you can contact us today at (607) 722-4023.