Preparing for the Unexpected

No one expects to go to work on any given day but never return home, but that is what happened to the victims of September 11. No one expects to lapse into a persistent vegetative state and never recover, as the Terri Shiavo case demonstrated. No one expects to lose her life in a hurricane, but that is what happened to many as a result of the recent hurricanes. No one wants their ex-spouse to inadvertently inherit property upon their death, but it happens. Are you prepared for the unexpected?

I seriously urge you to consider getting your worldly affairs in order while you can. Every adult needs a Will, a Health Care Power of Attorney, a Living Will, and possibly other estate planning documents.

A Will leaves your property to the people and organizations you choose, names someone to care for your minor children, and names your executor, the person with authority to make sure that the terms of your Will are carried out. Trusts and other estate planning documents can be very important in preserving assets and in ensuring distribution to chosen beneficiaries.

A Living Will is a type of advance directive in which you write your wishes about life-sustaining treatments if you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill and unable to communicate. A Health Care Power of Attorney is a type of advance directive that allows you to appoint someone to make medical decisions in the event you become unable to do so. The Health Care Power of Attorney differs from the Living Will in that the person authorized to make medical decisions can act in any situation where you are unable to communicate. In addition, you may also want to prepare an advance directive that allows you the option of not being resuscitated in the event of a cardiac or respiratory arrest as well as an advance directive if you wish to donate organs and/or tissues after death.

Having these legal documents in place is more than a practical necessity. Deciding on who you want to receive your property after your death can be a significant process. The peace of mind one achieves by preparing a Will and advance directives is very real and satisfying, and one less thing on your nagging list of things to do “someday.” Keep in mind that your final divorce papers only eliminate your ex-spouse from the picture. There are many other matters that must be addressed with these legal documents.

You may be surprised to learn that obtaining these documents does not need to be costly or time-consuming. You may obtain the advance directive forms from the Ohio Hospice and Palliative Care Organization at or by sending $3.00 to OHPCO, 1646 West Lane Avenue, Suite 2, Columbus, Ohio 43221. You may also obtain these forms and obtain assistance in writing your Will and other probate documents from a qualified attorney. Please let me know if you need a referral to someone qualified to assist you.

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