Of all the conversations you might have in your life, one of the more difficult involves discussing the question of death and dying. We all know that we only have a limited amount of time in our lives, but having a conversation about mortality is something we all shy away from. Facing the difficult questions, whether they are legal, religious, ethical, or any other, is not something we look forward to doing. Yet having such conversations is essential for any adult.
The Questions at the Heart of the Conversation
We’ve recently blogged about the Marlise Munoz case out of Texas, and the questions and legal issues that it has shed more light on. Like the Munoz family, you might have discussed the question of possibly becoming incapacitated, and the types of medical care you would or would not want to receive. But simply discussing those issues is often not enough. You need to make sure that, once you have the conversation about incapacity planning and medical wishes, you make your wishes known in a legally enforceable manner. This means creating advance medical directives that protect your wishes and let your family know what you desire.
Beyond incapacity planning, there is also the question of what you want to happen to your remains and your possessions after you die. As with medical directives, simply having the conversation and making your choices known is not enough. You will have to make sure that your wishes are made in a legally enforceable manner, such as by creating a last will and testament, revocable living trust, or by using other estate planning strategies.
Starting the Tough Conversations
While knowing you need to create medical directives and have an estate plan in place is one thing, talking about death, dying, illness, and other similar issues is entirely another. Regardless of your religious, cultural, ethical, personal, or spiritual beliefs, facing the question of mortality can be a very difficult process. Not only that, but discussing the topic with your loved ones and family members can be incredibly hard to do.
If you are having difficulty bringing the topic up, you might find it helpful to first talk to an estate planning attorney. Attorneys have a legal duty to keep what you talk about with them in confidence. You can rest assured that anything you say to your lawyer will be kept secret. Not only that, but having a conversation about the legal realities that surround death and dying with your lawyer can often be enough to get you started thinking on these issues with your closest loved ones.