Modern estate planning involves more than just the financial realities that go along with aging, and more and more people are coming to realize this. Living wills and durable powers of attorney for health care are now typically included in estate plans, and this is a very positive step. In our culture we tend to shy away from discussions surrounding death, but it is important to let your family know your thoughts concerning the way that you would like to be treated at the end of your life.
Living wills and medical powers of attorney are part of the equation, but there are also some more subtle matters that should be ideally included. There is an advance directive that was first recognized in the state of Florida in the mid-nineties called Five Wishes that provides a good framework for addressing all of the topics that are of relevance to end of life planning. By simply elucidating these five wishes you are creating a comprehensive end of life plan that leaves no stone unturned. The five wishes involve stating your choices concerning these matters:
- The person who will make medical decisions in your behalf
- Which medical procedures you will allow
- Statement of comfort care choices
- How you want others to treat you
- Final messages to your loved ones
Five Wishes can provide you with a framework that simplifies a rather complex and multifaceted task. The first two are essentially a durable medical power of attorney assignment and a living will. The rest of the wishes involve the more personal and often overlooked aspects of end of life planning. In a very real sense stating these wishes, which include matters of a spiritual nature as well as forgiveness issues, is a way to make sure that you die with dignity and communicate your innermost feelings to your loved ones.