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Advance directives improve quality of life and save estate assets

Medical expenses made during the last two years of life, as Kent readers may know, account for a disproportionate share of individual lifetime health care costs. In many cases, those expenses are passed on to spouses or children as estate assets are depleted and, in some cases, insufficient to meet the costs of care.

Forward-thinking health care professionals recognize that the failure to establish legal mechanisms for carrying out one's end-of-life wishes contributes significantly to costs borne by families and by the health care system as a whole. That recognition has led one hospital to implement its own program to encourage patients to execute advance directives. Hospital staffers have learned that taking the time to have the difficult discussion about end-of-life wishes not only reduces unnecessary expenses, but actually improves patients' quality of life.

Thinking about the tough choices that may need to be faced near the end of life presents a difficult and often uncomfortable proposition for most Americans. Loved ones may not want to think about the time when the family will no longer be together as a whole. Those familiar with the process, however, recognize that having that uncomfortable and sometimes emotional conversation in advance gives loved ones time to accept the tough choices that may be faced down the road.

Advance directives in the form of directives to physicians and a living will should be an essential component of every comprehensive estate plan. A compassionate estate planning professional can help Kent residents identify some of the critical issues that need to be addressed in the conversation about end-of-life wishes, but the real conversation needs to happen at home. Once the whole family has come to an understanding about a person's end-of-life choices, an experienced estate planning attorney can draw up the documents necessary to give those wishes binding legal status.

Source: NBC News Rock Center, "In the end, making hard decisions about dying brings personal, financial benefits," Michelle Balani, Sept. 19, 2012

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