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Most people know what a will is – the document that governs the disposition of your property and custody of your minor children / dependents after your death.

In a Simple Will you can:

  • Appoint someone to be your Personal Representative. This is the person who has the responsibility to see that your will is carried out.

  • Designate your heirs

  • Give particular items to particular people

  • Provide for charitable bequests

  • Direct your burial and funeral details


The next document in a basic estate plan is the Durable Power of Attorney, which authorizes an individual to make financial decisions for you. The Durable Power of Attorney:

  • Can be designed to take effect immediately or later, at a time or circumstance designated by you – usually upon your incapacitation.

  • Must have specific language which states that you intend for the authority of the Durable Power of Attorney to continue while you are legally incapacitated. Such language is required by Michigan law.


As with planning for authority over finances, planning may also be made for the possibility of health care needs or living arrangements should a person become incapable of giving direction. This complicated-sounding document is really a simple concept.

The Health Care Power of Attorney:

  • Designates a person to make your health care decisions for you if you are unable to make them for yourself. Most people don’t think that this will happen to them, but it happens more often than you would think.

  • May state your wishes regarding organ donation.

  • Is authorized by Michigan law and when properly completed, the person you have chosen (your Patient Advocate), speaks for you when you are not able to communicate your own wishes.

A Patient Advocate:

  • Only has the authority to act for you while you are unable to communicate. If you get better, their authority ends.

  • Does not have the authority to end medical treatment if it is likely to cause your death, unless you have specifically given the patient advocate the authority to also make life and death decisions for you. This must be spelled out in your Health Care Power of Attorney.

Many Health Care Power of Attorney documents contain a Living Will provision. This section gives your wishes and preferences regarding end-of life care, and can serve as a valuable guide for your Patient Advocate. After you sign it, give a copy to your doctor and other regular medical care providers.


In 1996, Congress passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act. The provisions that concern us are the “privacy” part.


  • Prevents hospitals and other covered health care providers from sharing your medical files and information, unless you specifically authorize them to do so.

  • Means that while it may seem natural for you to assume that your spouse, children, or your patient advocate will have access to your medical records in order to make informed decisions about your care, a health care provider may not share your records for fear of violating HIPAA. This can lead to delays in your care.

Signing a HIPAA Designation:

  • Clearly gives access to your medical records to whomever you wish.

  • Gives your health care provider the reassurance needed to share your records and information with those you designate, thus allowing them to make informed decisions for you


In addition to the basic estate plan documents, some people will want to set up a trust.

A Trust Agreement:

  • Establishes a trust into which you would place some or all of your assets, to be used for the purposes you designate.

  • Allows you to appoint one or more trustees to govern the trust and use the assets according to its terms. Usually you start out as the initial trustee and then, at a time of your designation (your death or incapacitation, e.g.), others take over managing your trust.

  • Can be used to achieve purposes that are too complicated for a will, such as providing for children with special needs, or simply just making sure your specific wishes are carried out as regards the use of your money.

  • Can provide tax savings.

  • Allows your heirs to receive their inheritance much more quickly than if you have only a will, since it minimizes the involvement of the Probate Court.


Organ donation. Removal of life-sustaining medical treatment. Denial of care. Doctor-Prescribed Suicide. Artificially-provided nutrition and hydration. "Pulling the Plug."


These issues are the sorts of thing nobody wants to talk about, but it is vital to confront them in the context of doing your estate planning.

I have spoken nationally and published booklets and articles on these issues for over a decade.  I have worked with groups like the Patients Rights Council, and have consulted with numerous experts and bioethicists. I have the knowledge and expertise to guide our discussions, making sure your advance directive protects you and communicates your wishes.


To get started, we schedule an initial interview, which should only take 45-60 minutes.

At that time we will:

  • Review your affairs

  • Establish your goals

  • Make decisions regarding your estate

It is helpful to have ready the names and contact information for all the people you wish to name to act on your behalf, including a primary, secondary and backup secondary for each task.  If you own any real property, you should also bring with you a copy of your deed(s).

Together, we will review your assets and your needs, and together we determine what you should do to meet those needs.

Should you have any of these needs, or if you think you may but are uncertain, please give me a call. I am happy to help with this important step in securing the future well-being of your health and family.

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