Ever since the tragic shooting in Tucson earlier this month I’ve been thinking about Gabrielle Giffords and her family, as well as the other victims of the shooting. Thankfully, Ms. Giffords survived and by all accounts is making an amazing recovery. The most recent news reports that her condition has been updated from “serious” to “good,” that she is awake and interacting with visitors, and was moved on Wednesday from the hospital in Houston to a nearby rehabilitation facility. All of this is wonderful news, but not all of the victims were so lucky, and we mourn for the families of the 6 victims who were killed by the gunman. This terrible act, unexpected and unexplained, has me thinking about my own friends and family, and how close any of us might be to similar unexpected tragedies.
Events like this, although tragic, can be motivating. While it is not my intention to scare, I do urge all of my readers to consider how important it is to have an updated Advance Health Care Directive. You don’t have to be a politician or well-known public figure to be in danger of illness or injury. Does your family know what your wishes are should the unthinkable happen? An Advance Health Care Directive is the document which ensures you have the right person making health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself; and ensures that your agent, your doctor, and your extended family knows your preferences for life-saving measures.
An Advance Health Care Directive is one of the pillars of a good estate plan, and as a stand-alone document it is fairly straightforward, yet despite this only 2 out of 5 Americans have created an advance directive for themselves (according to a 2007 Harris poll.) Why have so many people neglected this simple yet essential document? The most likely answer is that death and dying is hard think about, and even more difficult to discuss. But if you find it hard to think about end-of-life decisions right now, consider how much more difficult and painful it will be for your loved ones to have to make those decisions for you if something were to happen.
Being able to help my clients navigate these tough choices—working with them to ensure their loved ones are protected and provided for in case of unexpected circumstances—is one of the best parts of what I do as an estate planning attorney. Of course nobody wants to think about death or dying, but I like to remember the old saying which advises us to “hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” By helping my clients prepare for the difficult parts of life, I also help them hope and plan for the best.