Living Wills: More Than Just a Document

A living will is an entirely different document than a last will and testament. A living will is a legal document that tells healthcare providers how to handle your care should you be unable to communicate or make decisions about emergency treatment. These instructions are called advance directives.

A living will only be followed if a medical professional decides that you lack the ability to speak for yourself about life-sustaining treatment. If, for example, you do not want to be resuscitated in case of a severe stroke or heart attack and you are unable to express your wishes, a living will can guide the medical staff to follow the directives you have chosen. Without a living will, your care choices can be dictated by others.

While a traditional will provides information regarding the transfer of financial assets after you die, a living will communicates which (if any) medical treatments should be performed in order to extend your life. 

Why Would Someone Refuse Treatment That Would Extend Their Life?

Some people do not believe that life should be extended at all costs. They might feel that “their time has come,” and they may feel that death is a natural occurrence that should not be delayed or interrupted by medical procedures. Some may be so ill that they believe any attempted treatment would ultimately be futile. Some may believe that emergency resuscitation, for example, might just prolong a life already damaged by terminal disease and pain. Regardless of the reason for refusing certain treatments, a living will is the document that allows a patient’s treatment guidelines to be followed.

Treatment Types Covered in a Living Will Document

Many remember the heart-wrenching scene when National Football League Player Damar Hamlin suffered a cardiac arrest. Hamlin was successfully resuscitated on the football field and was able to return to his previous activities. Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR) was performed. There are consequences of CPR, as the chest compressions necessary to make the process work can break ribs. Sometimes, electronic defibrillators are part of the CPR process. While CPR may work well for a younger person, it can be less effective with older, chronically ill, or terminally ill adults.

Ventilator use was frequently discussed during the recent COVID-19 pandemic. A ventilator is a medical machine that forces air into the lungs of a person who cannot breathe. Intubation is the process of inserting a breathing tube down a person’s throat. This procedure can be very uncomfortable, and ventilator patients many times need to be sedated. Long-term sedation can cause muscles to atrophy and patients sometimes face a long and arduous recovery period after a ventilator has been removed.

Irregular heart rhythm is a common condition that can be treated. When a heart beats irregularly, it can lead to cardiac arrest and death. An irregularly beating heart can be shocked back into a normal rhythm with a manual electronic defibrillator. Persons can also have an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD). This is a device that, when permanently inserted into the chest, detects an abnormal heart rhythm and automatically shocks the heart back to normal rhythm. A person with an ICD who is reaching the end stage of life may no longer need the ICD, and advance directives can explain further steps after a healthcare provider suggests that the ICD should be disabled.

If a person can no longer eat or drink, artificial hydration and nutrition can be delivered through a feeding tube. It might be inserted through the nose, or if needed for a long time period, the tube might be surgically inserted into the abdomen. While artificial nutrition and hydration can be helpful in many cases, if the natural end of life is imminent, artificial nutrition and hydration may not necessarily extend life.

Other Living Will Provisions

Some may wish to have their organs, brain, and other tissue donated to others in need or to science for study. Others may not want their bodies to be altered in any way after death. A living will can address these concerns and direct providers to follow the patient’s wishes.

Living Will Considerations

Medical science and practices can extend life, but many are concerned that an artificially extended life might not be a quality life. A person may survive a life-threatening stroke because life-saving measures were successful. If the survivor was subsequently confined to a wheelchair, unable to speak, and required a feeding tube, many would not consider that a proper life. While some might want to live in any state, others may want to refuse medical procedures that could leave them in a lessened state, and a living will is the proper vehicle to express and direct one’s emergency medical treatment desires.

Consult Your Team

Those receiving Medicare are offered an annual wellness visit where their physician can be consulted about end-of-life issues. If high blood pressure that can lead to a stroke is a medical issue, the patient can have a frank discussion with their physician about the possible effects of a stroke and the medical condition that can result. The doctor can explain and help the patient understand end-of-life choices that need to be included in a living will.

Consult an Estate Planning Law Firm 

Your estate planning attorney will gather all of your information and make sure that your wishes and directives are clearly and legally stated in your living will document. Some important points to cover will be:

Patients have the right to determine the type of health care they want. NBMS Law PC’s living will experts are here to help you create a living will that will accurately and legally describe your medical directives. Savvy persons understand that homemade or online fill-in forms may not be the best way to create a living will and that the services of an experienced and quality law firm like NBMS Law PC are required in order to produce a quality and accurate living will. Contact NBMS Law, P.C., and begin the living will process today.

Trust, Estate, and Probate: To Use or Not to Use?

When it comes to managing your assets and planning for the future, the topics of trust, estate, and probate often arise. These legal instruments offer individuals the opportunity to secure their assets and ensure their loved ones are taken care of after they pass away. However, deciding whether to use these tools can be a complex and personal decision. At NBMS Law P.C. in Beaver, Pennsylvania, we work with our clients to help them with the benefits and considerations of trust, estate, and probate planning, helping you make an informed choice.

Trusts: Preserving Your Legacy

A trust is a legal arrangement that allows you to transfer your assets to a trustee, who manages them for the benefit of your beneficiaries. One of the key advantages of a trust is that it provides privacy, as the terms and conditions of the trust are not a part of the public record. This can be beneficial for individuals who value confidentiality in their estate planning.

Additionally, trusts offer flexibility in managing your assets. You can specify how and when your beneficiaries receive their inheritance, ensuring that your assets are protected and used wisely. This can be particularly valuable if you have concerns about your beneficiaries’ financial maturity or if you want to provide ongoing support for specific purposes, such as education or healthcare.

Trust v. Probate 

Another advantage of a trust is that it can help you avoid the probate process. Probate is a crucial legal process that occurs following the passing of an individual, involving the administration and distribution of their assets. It plays a vital role in settling the deceased’s affairs and ensuring the rightful beneficiaries receive their share of the estate. Probate is a court-supervised procedure that validates a will and ensures the proper distribution of assets. 

It can be time-consuming and expensive, potentially delaying the transfer of assets to your beneficiaries. The probate process also involves appraisal fees, publication costs, and potential estate taxes, further impacting the overall estate value. These expenses can burden the beneficiaries and diminish the inheritance they receive. By establishing a trust, you can bypass probate and provide a more efficient and timely distribution of your assets.

Estate Planning: Ensuring a Smooth Transition

Estate planning encompasses a range of legal strategies and documents designed to manage your assets and fulfill your wishes after your passing. It typically includes the creation of a will, powers of attorney, healthcare directives, and other important legal instruments.

The centerpiece of estate planning is the will. A will is a legal document that outlines your instructions regarding the distribution of your assets after you die. It allows you to designate beneficiaries, specify guardians for minor children, and even express your preferences regarding your funeral arrangements. Without a will, your assets may be subject to intestacy laws, which determine how assets are distributed when there is no valid will in place. By creating a will, you retain control over the fate of your assets and can ensure they are distributed according to your wishes.

Powers of attorney and healthcare directives are crucial components of estate planning, as well. These documents appoint trusted individuals to make financial and healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. By designating someone you trust, you can ensure that your affairs are managed smoothly and in accordance with your values and preferences.

Probate: The Legal Process

Probate is the legal process that validates a will, settles debts, and distributes assets to beneficiaries. While probate is often seen as a cumbersome and time-consuming process, it serves an important purpose. It provides a structured framework for resolving disputes, paying creditors, and ensuring the proper transfer of assets.

During the probate process, a court oversees the administration of the estate, ensuring that the deceased person’s wishes, as expressed in their will, are followed. The executor, named in the will or appointed by the court, is responsible for managing the estate, gathering assets, paying debts, and distributing property to beneficiaries. Although probate can take several months to complete, it provides a legal framework that helps protect the rights of all parties involved.

To Use or Not to Use?

Deciding whether to use trust, estate, or probate planning ultimately depends on your individual circumstances and goals. If you value privacy, wish to avoid probate, or desire greater control over the distribution of your assets, establishing a trust may be beneficial. On the other hand, if your estate is relatively small and you have a straightforward distribution plan, a will may be sufficient. It is important to consult with our experienced estate planning attorneys at NBMS Law P.C. to evaluate your options and determine the best course of action.

The Big Picture of Estate Planning 

Overall, it is always best to have a comprehensive estate plan to protect not only yourself, but your loved ones as well. NBMS Law P.C. in Beaver, Pennsylvania, understands this and is here to help guide you through the legal process. Some key benefits of estate planning include:

Contact Our Experienced Estate Planning Attorneys at NBMS Law P.C. Today

At NBMS Law P.C., we understand the intricacies of trust, estate, and probate planning in Pennsylvania. Probate is a necessary legal process that plays a vital role in administering and distributing an estate. While it has its benefits, such as protecting the deceased’s intent, probate can also be time-consuming and costly. However, by understanding non-probate assets and engaging in strategic estate planning, individuals can minimize the negative aspects of probate, avoid unnecessary expenses, and ensure a smoother transition of their assets to their loved ones. Our team of dedicated attorneys can guide you through the process, ensuring that your wishes are respected, and your assets are protected. Contact us today to schedule a consultation and take the first step toward securing your legacy.

Probate: The Good, the Bad, and the Non-Probate

Probate is a legal process that occurs after someone passes away, involving the administration and distribution of their assets. It plays a crucial role in settling the deceased’s affairs and transferring property to rightful beneficiaries. NBMS Law PC is here for your estate planning and probate needs in Pennsylvania. 

The Good: Protecting the Deceased’s Intent

Probate serves an important purpose by ensuring that the deceased’s wishes are carried out as expressed in their will. It provides a legal framework for the proper distribution of assets, protecting the deceased’s intent and minimizing the risk of disputes among beneficiaries. Through probate, the court oversees the process, ensuring that the estate is administered in accordance with the law.

Upon an individual’s passing, their estate undergoes probate court proceedings. A designated personal representative assumes responsibility for identifying the estate’s assets and debts and utilizing the assets to settle any outstanding liabilities, including estate taxes. Subsequently, the remaining assets are distributed among the beneficiaries. In cases where the decedent left a will, it must be located and submitted to the probate court for validation. However, a will may be deemed invalid if it fails to meet specific criteria. The most common grounds for invalidation include the absence of the testator’s signature and date, conducted in the presence of two witnesses. Furthermore, if the copy submitted to the court is not the original or the most recent version, the will may be invalidated. Additionally, the testator must have been at least 16 years old at the time of creating the will. Engaging the services of NBMS Law PC when preparing a will can help ensure its validity and enforceability, preventing potential technicalities from rendering it invalid or unenforceable.

Interested parties also hold the right to challenge a will if they suspect it was produced under undue influence. If a will is deemed invalid or unenforceable for any reason, or if no will is located or believed to exist, the probate court applies intestate succession laws to determine the distribution of the testator’s assets. The specifics of intestate succession statutes may differ by state but generally prioritize the spouse and children of the decedent. In their absence, the testator’s parents or siblings may inherit. To ensure assets are distributed according to your preferences, it is crucial to create a valid will.

Probate provides a level of transparency and accountability, as it requires an inventory of assets, debts, and liabilities to be submitted to the court. This helps protect beneficiaries from potential mismanagement or fraud by the executor or personal representative.

The Bad: Time and Cost

One of the downsides of probate is the time it takes to complete the process. Probate can be lengthy, often lasting several months or even years, depending on the complexity of the estate and any challenges that may arise. During this time, beneficiaries may experience delays in receiving their inheritance.

Moreover, probate can be costly. Legal fees, court costs, and executor’s fees can significantly deplete the estate’s value. The probate process also involves appraisal fees, publication costs, and potential estate taxes, further impacting the overall estate value. These expenses can be a burden on the beneficiaries and reduce the inheritance they receive.

The Non-Probate Assets: Avoiding Probate

While many assets go through probate, some types of property can bypass the process and pass directly to beneficiaries. These assets are known as non-probate assets and include the following:

Work with our experienced trust, estate, and probate attorneys at Pennsylvania’s NBMS Law to understand which assets can be designated as non-probate and how to structure your estate plan accordingly.

The Benefits of Estate Planning

One effective way to minimize the negative aspects of probate is through thoughtful estate planning. Estate planning involves the strategic organization and distribution of assets during one’s lifetime and after death. Some key benefits of estate planning include:

NBMS Law PC’s Estate Planning Attorneys are Here for You 

Probate is a necessary legal process that plays a vital role in administering and distributing an estate. While it has its benefits, such as protecting the deceased’s intent, probate can also be time-consuming and costly. However, by understanding non-probate assets and engaging in strategic estate planning, individuals can minimize the negative aspects of probate, avoid unnecessary expenses, and ensure a smoother transition of their assets to their loved ones.

If you need assistance with estate planning or probate matters in Pennsylvania, contact NBMS Law PC today. Our experienced and dedicated attorneys can guide you through the complexities of the probate process and help you develop an effective estate plan tailored to your unique needs and goals.