While the need for tax, investment, andretirement planning is hardly news totoday's physician-investors, equallyimportant is the need for end-life planning.This type of planning refers to preparing ourselves,our children, and other family members forlate-life health care issues that will inevitably creepup if we live long enough. Therefore, it's important toplan for tomorrow while you're still able to articulateyour desires. The truth is without an end-life plan inplace, your family is likely to endure future hardshipand anguish.
Spotlight on Issues
When people talk about end-life issues, the conversationtypically takes place in a generational vacuum.Parents talk to each other, but don't include theirchildren in the conversation. Problemsarise between generations. Parents should tell theirchildren what their priorities are in case they live longenough to suffer diminished capacity. For example,what type of facility will they want to call home? Canthey afford the environment they prefer? Under whatcircumstances is their life to be preserved?
Children can experience tremendous pressure andguilt if they are forced to make such decisions onbehalf of their parents. Even deceptively simple decisionscan become complicated. In addition, whenthere isn't a plan in place, children are likely to facesevere time constraints. In other words, they won't beable to take their time making important decisionsthat will dictate how their parents spend the finalyears of their lives.
There are a number of things families need to dowhile everyone is healthy. A list of topics should bewritten down and discussed, facilities should be visitedand compared, and costs should be projected.Another major issue that needs to be considered iswhether or not a facility accepts Medicaid. In familieswith more than one child, there may be divergent opinionson what to do. Unfortunately, the legal systemisn't structured to deal with many of these issues unlessthere's a plan already in place.
My own experience with this topic has been a harrowingone. As a financial planner, I did some estateplanning with my widowed mother, creating a will,trusts, and a power of attorney. However, I was unableto convince her sisters to plan while they were still competentto make their own decisions. As their physicaland mental health deteriorated, the consequences ofnot having an end-life plan in place became evident.
In the case of my older aunt, her conditiondeclined quickly and she was suddenly unaware ofanything that was going on around her. I had to petitionthe court to become my aunt's guardian so that Icould make decisions for her. This was an expensiveand time-consuming activity. It involved assessmentsfrom a host of medical professionals as well as a courtappointed "guardian ad litem" to ensure her rightswere being protected and that I was a suitable personto serve as her permanent guardian.
My younger aunt was an even more difficult case.While our family could see she was declining, she resistedour help. This resistance became a major impedimentto helping her get the care she needed. But as dif-ficult as it has been for me, I can't imagine how difficultit is for families who don't have the knowledge orfinancial backing that's necessary in these cases. And end-life plan is invaluable, should includeat least two generations, and should be created whileparents can still articulate their wishes.
Frank Patzke is founder and president of FP
Financial Services, Inc, a registered investment
advisor based in Schaumburg, Ill. Mr. Patzke has
served on business advisory boards, lectured at
universities and professional associations, and
advised executives of Fortune 500 companies on
planning and investment techniques. He welcomes
questions or comments at 800-545-5110 or firstname.lastname@example.org.