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Estate planning often includes difficult end-of-life topics

End-of-life decisions are difficult conversations to begin. Most people in Oklahoma prefer to ignore the subject, perhaps thinking they will be able to make decisions about their own health care up until their last breath. Still others have taken the step of starting the conversation about estate planning and end-of-life wishes, but the results were murky. In fact, a recent survey showed that even those who believe they have expressed their wishes may not have made those wishes clear.

The study conducted on veterans ages 55 or more showed that 40 percent did not have a living will or health care proxy. A living will gives instructions regarding medical treatment a person wants or does not want if the person should ever become too ill to express those wishes. Someone may choose a health care proxy to make those critical decisions, such as whether the person should be resuscitated if it means he or she will continue living in pain or with mental impairment.

Among those who had chosen a proxy and discussed their wishes, only 30 percent of the proxies had an accurate understanding of their loved one's wishes for medical treatment. Those who conducted the study believe many people want to have these important conversations, but they really don't know what to discuss. Those preparing men and women to be geriatric doctors believe physicians should be providing their patients with more information about end-of-life options.

Choosing a health care proxy and defining end-of-life wishes is an important part of one's estate planning. Those in Oklahoma who are confused or uncertain about where to begin may contact an attorney for compassionate guidance. An attorney can also help with broaching the difficult topics with one's family or proxy.

Source: CBS News, "Many end-of-life talks end in confusion, study shows", Dennis Thompson, March 24, 2017

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