Lancaster Law Office helps you consider the end of your life and organize your affairs, both financial and personal.

Planning the end of life protects one’s family. It reduces post-death family conflict. Planning gives peace of mind. Frequently, clients and their families know little about events and processes surrounding their final sickness and eventual death. The end of life planning process educates a client and produces documents to govern events in life’s twilight. The following documents, and the conversations with legal counsel that precede them, may be relevant when you consider your own death:

1. Durable Power of Attorney.  If you become incapable of making your own financial or health care decisions, a durable power of attorney appoints and grants authority to a person you trust to make your decisions while you cannot do so for yourself.  One can also authorize someone to make mental health care decisions on your behalf.

2. Directive to Physicians.  If your doctors certify in writing that you will soon die or are suffering a permanent vegetative state, a directive to physicians (also called a health care directive or living will) instructs doctors which medical procedures you do and do not want during the process of your death, if you are unable to speak with doctors yourself.  The document relieves the pressure doctors and hospitals feel to protect themselves from lawsuits by doing everything possible to keep you alive as long as possible.  It also relieves your family of the need to make potentially heart-wrenching decisions about terminating your care.

3. Will, Trusts, and Gift Lists.  A Will directs a person you nominate (your personal representative) to wind up your affairs, pay your bills, and then distribute any property that is left according to your wishes.  A personal representative's duties are governed by statute.  A Will might include a testamentary trust, which gives property to a trustee to use in accord with your wishes for the benefit of persons you name in the trust.  Most Wills include a Gift List by which you can dispose of your personal property.  The Gift List is not part of your Will, and so does not require the formalities of Will execution  (RCW 11.12.020) to be valid.  RCW 11.12.255, 11.12.260.  You can change a Gift List every morning at breakfast, or never at all.

4. Funeral Instructions.  Funeral Instructions tell your family and funeral personnel what organs you might wish to donate, how you want your remains disposed, and any other details you might wish to specify with regard to post-death ceremonies.  RCW 68.50.160.

FAQs:  Will and other End of Life Documents: