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The Gift of Guidance | Powers of Attorney, Wills and Trusts

The-Gift-Of-Guidance
By K. Susie Adams #134068

In 2014, when my father was in his final days, my sisters and I were faced with an agonizing medical decision. We had to decide whether a feeding tube should be inserted into Dad’s dying body.

We all agreed that Dad was a foody. He loved food. He wasn’t a large man, but he would demand that you eat at a certain restaurant and then tell him what you ordered, how it tasted and how you liked the place. When a friend described a “foody,” there was no doubt it described my father. So, when the doctor asked us about the feeding tube, we struggled with the decision. I couldn’t imagine not agreeing to a procedure to keep Dad alive a while longer, yet it seemed selfish to continue keeping him alive if he couldn’t even eat and enjoy the food.

I rummaged through his powers of attorney and living will, hoping to find some guidance. Lo and behold, there it was! He plainly asked not to be kept alive at all costs, but to be allowed to die comfortably. When I found that paragraph in his medical power of attorney, I was so relieved, I burst into tears. I called my sisters, shared that section of the document with them, and we agreed to not have the feeding tube inserted. Within a short time, Dad died at home, in his own bed, cared for by loving caregivers.

A Great Gift
All of us should give the gift of guidance to our families, complete with powers of attorney, with doctor’s directives, so that your loved ones will know your wishes if you are ever incapacitated while living. Share those documents with those you’ve chosen to be your agents for medical and financial decisions during a crisis. Also, create a will so your loved ones will have a clear road map to follow when you die. Keeping them from having to struggle in making decisions without your guidance is a great gift.

Documents and Domicile
These documents will help to establish domicile for full-time RVers. For example, if you claim Texas as your domicile and show that you not only spent some time there, but also had your wills, powers of attorney and other related documents drafted in Texas, under Texas law it shows further evidence of your intent to make Texas your home.

I share this information because of personal experience, not because I am in the business of drafting estate documents.

Discuss Your Plans
Once you have completed the necessary documents for your estate (trust, will, medical and financial powers of attorney), have a family meeting with those who will be your caretakers or be responsible for your estate. Talk about plans for your assets, whom you have chosen to be the executor of your will and the agent for you if you are alive but incapacitated. Once you have that conversation, put the documents in a safe place where they know how to find them. Then you can resume your RV lifestyle, free from worry.

My dad did one more thing, for which I am thankful. He bought a gravesite and a bench to place nearby. He asked that after he and my mom died, we occasionally go there, sit on the bench and think about them. My mother died in 2012. So, when I am in Houston, I go by, sit on the bench, eat my lunch and remember my parents. I love that Dad took the time to tell us that he would like it if we stopped by now and then. And I like stopping by, too.

Functions of Documents
So, what are the functions of these documents? There are documents that operate while you are alive (medical powers of attorney, financial powers of attorney and do not resuscitate [DNR] forms); there are documents that operate solely after one dies (wills), and there are instruments that operate while a person is alive and continue to operate after they are gone (trusts).

Living—medical directive, medical power of attorney and financial power of attorney: These documents tell your loved ones your wishes if a catastrophic medical situation arises. They allow them to step into your shoes and make medical decisions for you based on your request in the documents.

• Living, but incapacitated—financial power of attorney: This document is used when you are unable to make financial decisions about your life. It gives another person the right and responsibility to make these decisions as if they are you.

• Before and after death—trusts: This document directs a trustee in the way they need to handle certain assets. For example, I have a friend who has 38 cats that she loves dearly. After retiring, she felt anxious about dying and leaving her cats unprotected, so she set up a trust for them. Now she feels relieved that when she dies they will be cared for.

• After death—will: The will is a blueprint that tells your chosen executor what to do with your belongings when you die. It can be general or specific, down to the ring you want to leave to one child, or a portion of assets you want to leave to grandchildren. It makes dividing your belongings easier for those you leave behind.

RVers who have these legal documents in place will help their loved ones in the event of a tragedy. Take time to have your powers of attorney and wills created or updated before you are unable or unavailable to do so. It is one of the greatest gifts you can give your loved ones during a difficult time in their lives.

K. Susie Adams has been a lawyer for over 30 years, spending 15 of those years working as a trial lawyer. She also taught legal writing at the University of Houston Law School. From 2011–2016, she was executive director of Childrenz Haven, the Child Advocacy Center of Polk County, Texas. Susie and her husband, James Frost, reside in Livingston, Texas.

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