What Are Your Wants, Wishes, and Wills?    
By Wynne A. Whitman, Esq.

Whether you're fit as a fiddle, or you just received a scary diagnosis, there's no time like the present to consider your wants, wishes, and wills.  No, we're not talking about what you want for dinner tonight, what you wish for when you blow out the candles, or will you be invited to your nephew's wedding.  We mean drawing up a will and other legal documents to make sure your wants and wishes are carried out.

Where to begin? First, think about what you really want.  And remember, this is all about what you, and you alone, want.  It isn't about what you think you should do or someone tells you to do.  What kind of health care do you want if you're terminally ill?  Who do you want to receive your prized stamp collection?  Do you want a memorial service or a private burial?  Maybe you'd like some of your hard-earned estate to benefit a local charity when you're gone.

Next, consult an attorney to assist you in preparing a Durable Power of Attorney (which allows your Agent to make all financial decisions on your behalf), a Living Will or Advance Directive for Health Care (which outlines your wishes at the end of life), a Health Care Proxy Directive (which appoints an individual to make health care decisions for you if you are unable), and a testamentary document (a Last Will and Testament and/or Revocable Living Trust which outlines who receives your assets on  your death).  Tell your attorney all of your thoughts and concerns.  Problems cannot be resolved unless problems are identified.

Then, decide who you wish to act on your behalf.  Pick the person who can make the decisions you would have made if you were able.  You don't need to select your second cousin once removed to make your medical decisions just because he's the only doctor in the family.  You want to appoint the individual who can make sound, reasoned judgments on your behalf.  Again, don't worry about offending one family member by selecting someone else.  Instead, pick the person you want.

Last but not least, talk to your loved ones.  Tell them your wants, wishes, and wills and keep telling them.  They need to hear it from you -  not a piece of paper.

Wynne A. Whitman, Esq. is a tax, trusts, estates attorney and together with Shawn D. Glisson, M.D., is the author of Wants, Wishes, and Wills: A Medical and Legal Guide to Protecting Yourself and Your Family in Sickness and in Health (Financial Times Press, May 2007).  For more information about this new and informative book, log onto www.wantswishesandwills.com.  Wynne may also be reached at wantswisheswills@aol.com.
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