• How to Decide on a Financial Decision Maker for Your Estate Plan and the Differences

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    March 25, 2019
    Business And Estate Planning Newsletter
    Welcome back to Cunningham Dalman's Business and Estate Planning Newsletter!  We strive to provide you with helpful articles and links to legal issues on topics related to business and estate planning.

    How to Decide On a Financial Decision Maker for Your Estate Plan
    By Haans Mulder
    This is often a difficult decision. Some people struggle because they'd like to name all of their children, but understand that may only complicate the process. Others have a child or person in mind who is very capable, but he or she lives far away from them. Other people don't have any children or friends who are a good fit to make these decisions.

    If you struggle with this decision, here are some helpful tips:

    1. Choose one or two financial decisions makers. Naming more than two children or people in this role will be very cumbersome and can make the process much more difficult for your family. Decide which one or two or your children are the best fit and then name the others as back-ups.  That way, all of them will be incorporated into the documents and shouldn't feel forgotten about. 

    2. Choose the most capable child or person who lives close to you. An increasing number of financial institutions require a decision maker to appear at a branch to be able to start making decisions. This can be very challenging if the child or person doesn't live close by or there aren't any branch locations nearby. Choosing a child or person who is close to you will avoid this issue.  On the other hand, if you have a child who is very capable and lives further away, consider naming him or her with another child who lives locally and gets along with the other.  They can work together as co-decision makers and the child who lives nearby can handle the local tasks. 

    3. Choose a financial institution or trusted advisor if you don't have family or friends who can serve in these roles. Some people don't have someone close to them or aren't comfortable naming their children in these roles. Choosing a trust company that's affiliated with your bank or investment company can be an important option to consider.  You can also explore whether your CPA, an attorney, or other advisor can serve in this role.

    This is a very important decision to make.  But, don't let it prevent you from getting an estate plan in place. Failing to plan will only create more stress and cost for your loved ones.  

    DNR vs. Life Sustaining Treatment
    By Jessica Arends

    Every estate plan should include a document naming someone else to handle medical decisions when you are no longer able to.  The terminology most commonly associated with this document includes: a medical directive, advanced directive, living will, patient advocate, and health care power of attorney.  No matter the name, this document contains important language about who gets to make decisions for you when you cannot speak for yourself, what powers the person has to handle your medical and mental treatment needs, and what should be done in the event you are not expected to live off of life support. 

    For those of us who have no medical training, terminology is easily misused when talking about end-of-life decisions.  When this subject comes up in estate planning, people readily volunteer that they want a DNR (short for do-not-resuscitate).  But life support and a DNR are distinctive and important to understand.

    Michigan has a Do-Not- Resuscitate Procedure Act.  If you have signed a DNR and are in a medical facility - medical professionals are on notice that if your heart and breathing stop, you do not want to be revived.  This Act also extends outside a medical facility.  For example, if someone is at home and their heart and breathing stop - medical professionals would usually work to revive this person.  But, if they have a DNR that is visible to the medical professionals, such as a DNR bracelet, they must honor that person's wishes and cannot attempt to revive that person.  For most people, until we reach an advanced age, or a precarious medical situation exists - most of us do want to be revived if we have a chance of returning to our normal way of life.  In a situation where you are not breathing - it is the responsibility of medical professionals to save your life (unless you have a visible DNR). Because time is precious, it is not feasible to contemplate what your recovery will be like once revived.

    What most people unknowingly mean when they refer to a DNR is that they don't want to be kept alive on life support if it is not expected they will be able to ever live off such support.  The health care power of attorney will specify what should happen in this scenario including whether you intend or don't intend for nutrition and hydration to be withheld. 

    A health care power of attorney can authorize the person making your medical decisions to sign a DNR on your behalf.  Further, if you wish to have a DNR in place, you should speak with a medical professional such as your doctor to make sure you understand the implications of a DNR before signing one.
    P. Haans Mulder, Shareholder
    (616) 392-1821

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