Business Succession Planning for Breakfast

 

 

Last Thursday morning I attended a breakfast program hosted by The Denver Foundation at the J.W. Marriott.  The program was entitled “Beyond Tax Law: Non-tax Aspect of Business Succession Planning” and was presented by Stephan Leimberg.  I have been going to these breakfast programs for several years now and they always feature excellent speakers and timely topics.  The Denver Foundation also hosts the monthly meetings of The Women’s Estate Planning Council of which I am a member.

So – what about Leimberg’s presentation?  It was pretty snappy and hit home the focus that attorneys and other professional advisors need to consider and take to heart when dealing with small businesses – especially family businesses: focus on the tax and other technical aspects of business succession and exclude family and relationship dynamics at your (and the family business) peril!

In his materials, Leimberg presented some eye-opening facts – for example that one-third of the Fortune 500 is family-owned and that family businesses purchase more than $1 Trillion of goods and services annually.  Part of the presentation was about identifying the traits of the family businesses (about 55% of business are family controlled) that have been successful and how they managed and successfully manage to bridge the family/business divide.

In a family business context, there is not only the business future at stake but also the functioning of the relationships of the family members – both inside and outside the business context.  Part of Leimberg’s presentation focused on the reality-based aspects of a business:

will a business die with its owner?

should the family risk running the business?

on what is the success of the business dependent?

is there a strategy in place to overcome inertia?

What about all those different hats?  I will make reference here to “hats” thinking of DeBono’s six hat parallel thinking….

    • WHITE: facts and information
    • RED: feelings and emotions
    • BLACK: critical analysis of logical flaws
    • YELLOW: positive logic applied to seek harmony or benefits
    • GREEN: new idea or perspective, creativity
    • BLUE: the big picture

Edward  DeBono, Six Thinking Hats: An Essential Approach to Business Management (1985: Little, Brown) His idea for parallel thinking is that the brain can be “sensitized” to think in broader ways.   Okay, what also comes to mind is a kid lit fave of mine: Caps for Sale, by Esphyr Slobodkina  (remember the cap peddler and the mischievous monkeys?).

I thought Leimberg’s numbers about how many family businesses have done succession planning were a bit high.  Perhaps this is because of the relative size of the family business he was looking at.  When I presented at the CBA/CLE program “Advising Small Companies” in February  I looked at figures for small businesses that were akin to estate planning numbers for parents of young children – the vast majority of both groups, who are in greatest need of succession or estate planning – have nothing in place.  The Small Business Administration has some helpful resources available here.   What I covered in my February CLE presentation were “the four D’s”:

          • Detour
          • Dissolution
          • Disability
          • Death

Things don’t always go as planned!

“I feel as if I were a piece in a game of chess, when my opponent says of it: That piece cannot be moved.” 

Soren Kierkegaard

My main focus at that CLE  presentation was on discussing techniques to motivate clients who are focused on the success of their businesses to think beyond survival mode and make a plan for the unplanned and the inevitable.  For a definition of business succession planning, I used Louis Mezzullo’s (American College of Trust and Estate Counsel President) definition: “Planning for the orderly transfer of the management and the ownership of a business to new managers and new owners to avoid a liquidation of the business as well as unnecessary taxes and other expenses, and in a manner that carries out the family’s nontax objectives.”

Bottom line for my takeaway of Leimberg’s presentation – the importance of getting family business clients to really start thinking about succession planning (estate planning for a business) and its importance from a strategic point of view.  I liked this approach, which emphasizes relationship dynamics in the success or failure of a business – whether it is a family business or a small business that is not family owned.  Following a course according to a strategy is always preferable to reacting to an unforeseen event or an emergency.

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org

The Music of Family Relationships

It’s springtime somewhere, but definitely not in Denver this morning where the snow from Monday’s storm has melted only a little.  I got a blizzard alert on my iPhone at about 7:30 this morning!  It’s coming down right now.  We do need the moisture and I, for one, am not anxious to get started on the lawn mowing anytime soon. . . .  So here’s a picture of spring that I took last week in Ireland.

For all of you skeptics (or people who have been to Ireland before) the weather was beautiful and I took many pictures with visible blue sky! I took this picture on the grounds of Glenstal Abbey, where I was lucky enough to spend several days in a warm and welcoming Benedictine community.  I took this picture after walking back from a visit to Mass Rock.  There Irish soprano Noirin Ni Riain told our group about the history of the Mass Rock. She alo sang to us and finished by leading us in song.  She has an amazing voice and her music not only speaks to the soul, but moves it.  I purchased three of her CD’s when I was there and they are all available from Sounds True in Boulder.  Her songs are sung in Irish, but I find that the most moving music is not in my mother tongue of English.  I’m also thinking of Gorecki’s Third Symphony which you can listen to part of it (with beautiful visual accompaniment) here .  My favorite is the original million-seller with soprano Dawn Upshaw.

Music and spring and travel. . . .  That leads me also to an experience I had some years ago when I was visiting a local nursing home in my capacity as JFS para-chaplain.  I was there to lead a service and because I was lucky enough to be accompanied by a guitarist, I sang an old Yiddish song called Oif’n Prippitchik.  About midway into the song something very interesting happened.  One of the residents who attended was a woman with very advanced dementia who, it was reported to me later, had not spoken in over a year.  She started first to hum and then sing along with the song.  She spoke about her grandmother.  The song had transported her right back to a happy memory of childhood, when her grandmother had sung that song to her.  By the means of music, hearing that melody – she was moved in a sort of time travel.  I was most certainly moved witnessing that event.  Another story of music as a means of transport for the spirit comes to mind, it is from Megory Anderson’s book Sacred Dying.

So this post is about connections I suppose, and the beauty of writing blog posts is that I can incorporate things like . . . . a bumper sticker that I saw this morning on my way to work.  It read “love lasts longer than life.”  I nodded in agreement.  This post is also about new varieties of living arrangements in this country, which hearken back to some very old traditional arrangements.  I thought about the post after reading an article about it in the April 2013 AARP bulletin.

The title of the April Bulletin’s article is “Saving Money by Living Together,” and it is about money saving, but I suspect that the approximately 51 million Americans who live in a house with at least two generations in a single home, and many of these most likely have three generations, are enjoying more than just money savings from the arrangement.  The money savings factor in substantially for caring for an elder parent, and the arrangement also give an adult child or children the opportunity to give back to the aging parent some of the care they received from childhood.  This can be a beautiful way of modeling productive multigenerational relationships for young children.   I think it also can foster a productive stage of elderhood for many grandparents, a topic I’ve blogged about previously.

One of the biggest challenges that we face as a society is how to take care of the burgeoning number of elders, some of whom have meager savings and many whose savings have simply run out over the course of a long number of years of paying for health care not covered by Medicare and costs of living in retirement.  I sometimes hear the offhand lament “we don’t take care of our elders in this country,” to which I often quickly respond with the numbers of elders and the fact that the vast majority of those elders needing care receive some or all of their care from unpaid family members.  One of the side effects of longevity is reworking family relationships to support elders in their later years.  As an estate planning and elder law attorney, there are a number of legal arrangements that an individual and family can put in place to manage the legal aspects of these often complicated financial, medical and emotional considerations.  In a multigenerational housing arrangement, it is good to start with a plan.  I liked this article’s list of tips for making such an arrangement work which include:  discuss expectations and responsibilities like financial and privacy issues; talk about parental and filial (adult child to parent) responsibilities; check zoning restrictions about renovations for attached dwellings; and share the responsibilities.  I would also add that it might be wise to have a regular place for the family members to meet all together to ensure things are working and so any conflict can be managed productively and not allowed to proliferate.   Some of my clients have made such arrangements and they are usually mutually beneficial.  It is interesting to note the change in structure that economic and age-related considerations can have for families – for so many of us, it brings our dear ones closer to us.

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org

 

 

 

Longevity, Conflict and Meaning

 

I must be on a roll here thinking about conflict at the end of life.  In light of the recent 911 call from the independent living apartments in Bakersfield and other recent things I’ve read – this issue can use much more discussion.  I even posted a link to my Facebook page    about it.     I liked reading Charles Ornstein’s recent article in the Washington Post entitled “I thought I understood health care.  Then my Mom went into the ICU.”  Read it here.    Ornstein’s poignant and personal account of the difficult decision faced by his family after his mother was in a coma and certain decisions had to made is very instructive.  I hear  frequently from clients and family members who are health professionals  that their training makes these difficult decisions much easier.  I am not always so sure.  Some oncologists, for example, are much more focused on a patient’s quality of life at the end of the course of a long and devastating disease, while others prefer to operate in more of a “superhero” mode, vowing to never give up on a patient’s chances for recovery.  There is no right or wrong here – all of these decisions are difficult, even when we have a pretty good idea about the choice and preferences our loved one has previously expressed.  I think of my own experience with my parents’ deaths.  My father died in March 2010 after a long bout with a combination of an undiagnosed neurodegenerative disease coupled with what was later discovered to be metastatic prostate cancer.  I accompanied him to the doctor on many occasions and was his health care agent for the last nine months of his life.  My mother, his wife of 59 1/2 years, worked for many years as a Registered Nurse  – but this set of considerations and +decisions was a whole different ball game.

It is usually extremely difficult to talk with others about death, and this difficulty is lessened somewhat when the conversation is initiated by an older loved one who wants to make his or her wishes known.  This doesn’t often happen.  There are ways to start the conversation though!  It only becomes more difficult in the face of a life-altering illness.    I have worked with many people with terminal illnesses.  It is not any easier to consider end-of-life issues even if they are more “real” in light of a life-threatening disease.  Because I know how difficult it can be for a doctor to raise the issue of hospice care and associated palliative care or quality of life issues with a patient – the patient may believe that their doctor is “giving up” on them – I will often take the opportunity to discuss these issues when appropriate.  I think the questions are much less threatening when you are discussing them with your lawyer as opposed to your doctor.  These involve, after all, legal questions.  Elder law is such a fascinating mix of and intersection of legal, medical, financial psychological and cultural questions.

I also enjoyed reading “Managing Our Miracles: Dealing with the Realities of Aging” in the latest issue of Bifocal, the publication of the ABA Commission on Law and Aging    In this article, Monsignor Charles Fahey refers to “the third age” – the one that is part of human aging that is beyond human reproduction and physical strength – which has become profoundly extended in recent years.  I have blogged previously about Erik Erikson’s developmental stages   and his wife Joan’s extension of  “The Life Cycle Completed” which included her own chapter entitled “The Ninth Stage.”   I think old age and elderhood need to be examined and re-examined in our culture so that we have a more inclusive definition of what is our human “useful shelf life.”  Many of the clients I see, along with assistance from their family members – do an excellent job of meeting the challenges of increased longevity.  As I remind people, this new age of elderhood is something that affects us in a variety of new and sometimes surprising ways.  This longevity can provide opportunities to live parts of a life that had previously been unlived, or not – depending on each of our own unique circumstances and how we find meaning in our lives.   As Hermann Hesse observed:

There’s no reality except the one contained within us. That’s why so many people live an unreal life. They take images outside them for reality and never allow the world within them to assert itself.

Longevity challenges that, and we generally have no frame of reference for today’s longevity.  We can create this new stage of life within ourselves and share it with our loved ones.    Dementia can be a side effect of longevity for many of us or our family members or loved ones.  We make meaning in our lives and others in our ability to “do” often as some kind of proof of our existence.  Dementia can challenge all those beliefs and ideas about who we are, what it means to “be” simply and no longer able to “do” as we did for ourselves and for others before.  This is part of the new reality of aging and longevity.  More on this topic later. . . .

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org

Old Age and Longevity as a Source of Family Conflict

Hmmm. . . .  what kind of a title is that?!  Well, it hearkens back to a bumper sticker from The Conflict Center (a local nonprofit  I used to volunteer with) that I have always liked: “Conflict is Inevitable, Violence is Not.” Conflict is natural, inevitable and often quite productive – when it is managed effectively.  Due to advances in health care and an overall increase in longevity, we are living longer than before and in unprecedented numbers.  We have never had this many old people on the planet before . . .  and here come the baby boomers in their “silver tsunami.”  We are all charting a course together on how to structure community that includes older people and values them not just for their “doing” but also for their “being.”  Beyond some basic and fundamental baselines, each of us is free – for better or for worse – to make our own choices about how we structure that community.

In my work I sometimes see people dying with large amounts of funds saved, but more often there is “enough” and in other circumstances people have already run out of money.  These things are rather difficult to predict, as a major factor is health care cost –many of the costs not covered in whole or in part by Medicare, and then there is also the choice about where and how to live (or with whom).  Many of us are facing financial challenges or difficulties as we look at aging in general.  I liked  “No Country for Old People”  – a post that I found thanks to my wills, trusts & estates prof blog subscription – read it here .

On page two of the post, you can watch Sam Waterston’s Saturday Night Live skit selling insurance to senior citizens to protect against robot attacks.  There are many forces coming to bear on individuals and families as we age in longer lifespans and in greater number.  So far, I haven’t had clients coming to me to deal with the aftereffects of robot attacks . . .  but there are the troubling and more subterranean fears about running out of money and losing autonomy.  There are more middle-income Americans aged 55 and older who are carrying more credit card debt (relative to income) on average than younger people.  You can read the recent report by EBRI, the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute here .

The tricky part about saving for retirement is knowing how much savings will be enough.  Many of us rely on financial advisors to help with managing investments and retirement savings, but the bottom line is that there isn’t really a “rule of thumb” for retirement savings.  While we are generally able to calculate our social security retirements benefits based on credits and retirement age, none of us knows how long we will live and whether our retirement savings will be enough.  For many of us, financial uncertainty is a source of stress during people’s working lives, so why wouldn’t it carry into retirement? Indeed, this can be an ongoing source of worry, with many older people not wanting to be a financial burden on their children.  Sometimes these can become a source of conflict as elderly parents struggle to manage their life activities in the face of declining health and capacities, which may include difficulties managing financial affairs.  One of the early warning sign of dementia is inattention to or mismanagement of finances.  Sometimes this can be evidenced by letting mail pile up, becoming forgetful about check writing, bill paying and handling cash.   For adult children and loved ones, the financial difficulties can be a source of conflict because children don’t often know when and how to step in to assist.  Sometimes this can make for a difficult situation, especially if a person with declining abilities becomes prey to psychological or financial abuse.  The signs of these forms of abuse (as contrasted with physical abuse)  along with neglect, are often missed.  Read the January newsletter from the Colorado Coalition for Elder Rights & Abuse Prevention here – it discusses elder abuse and medical care as a public health issue.

This is new terrain for nearly all of us.  Our grandparents and great grandparents didn’t tend to live that long, so we don’t tend to have a “model” of what a retirement span of 20-30 years looks like.  We mustn’t forget that we are in this together and there are valuable resources to help us.   The National Council on Aging has an informative fact sheet about economic security for elders available here  and their website also has helpful information about healthy aging.

How we deal with conflict – consciously or unconsciously – and whether we handle it in productive or counter-productive ways – is an important facet of aging.  Whether the “aging” we think of is our own or we are coping with losses sustained by age and frailty of a loved one, aging, disease, disability and death are all natural sources of conflict.  They are part of life after all.  How we choose to manage them is up to us.

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org

End of Life Decisions – “When the Rubber Hits the Road”

 

Yesterday morning, before my usual third Thursday meetings with other probate lawyers at the Colorado Bar Association, I attended a very informative discussion put on by Norv Brasch at Bryan Cave HRO entitled  “Estate Your Intentions: A Special Forum on End of Life Issues.”  It was an at-capacity crowd of hospice workers, health professionals, chaplains, other interested people and yes – a few lawyers. . .  Without going into much detail about the litigation that set the stage for the  initial case study discussion – let’s just say it’s themed along the same lines as Trygve Bauge’s frozen grandfather, the subject of Nederland’s “Frozen Dead Guy Days” festival and there was no shortage of morbid humor (mostly in the form of puns).

The broader and challenging issues are about the constellation of decision making and the alignment of actions by a diverse group of people to make end of life wishes “stick.”  When I talk to people about end of life issues, it is typically in the context of an estate plan, but it may also be in a more particular context of crisis planning.  Most people have heard of a “living will,” its technical term is “advance directive,” but it seems fewer people are familiar with the MDPOA – the medical durable (or health care) power of attorney.  The two documents are very different.  The advance directive has had much more press, having been the subject of several U.S. Supreme Court cases, the latest being the case of Terri Schiavo.

I have previously blogged about  the documents important for the terminally ill and everyone else.  The most important distinction to remember is that the MDPOA names a PERSON to make decisions for you if you are unable, while an advance directive is a document that comes into play in very limited circumstances and is a STATEMENT of wishes.  This is not to minimize the importance of having an advance directive, but rather to highlight the need for all of us who are able to

(1) name a health care agent of your choosing and

(2) have a conversation with that person about what you want them to do.

No one wants to accept a job, particularly one that may involve life-or-death decision making – without receiving some instructions first!  What does the failure to plan or name a health care agent result in? We don’t know until it happens, but it is typically decision by a hastily convened committee, often of people with diverse and conflicting interests.  It is not a happy time for anyone involved, and the failure to have the conversation and to make any plans only serve to complicate matters.

The panelists spoke about the challenges of having the difficult conversations about health care and the end of life.  Of course, none of us knows what the end of our life looks like, the where or when or how.  This difficult conversation that so many of us are reluctant to have often gets played out within the hospital setting when a frail elderly loved one breaks a hip or contracts pneumonia.  These seemingly run of the mill injuries and illnesses for the younger folks are still the primary causes of death in the elderly, so this serves to bring front and center mortality for the majority of us: advanced age.  All of our medical technology cannot save us from the inevitable – but what does the inevitable look like?  When do we accept that someone is dying?  Just because we don’t have hard and fast answers to those questions doesn’t mean we shouldn’t talk about them.  One of the panelists commented that “the last place you should be talking about end of life decisions is in your lawyer’s office. . . ” I heartily disagree.  I think having the conversation in your lawyer’s office is a perfect place and time to start the conversation – it is often while it is a more “theoretical” proposition and therefore less threatening. It is different when your lawyer talks to you about disability and death as distinguished from when you visit your doctor.  I have spoken to people about hospice and made the suggestion to consider it more carefully with persons in fragile health.  Is this something most estate and elder lawyers do? I doubt it! Is it part of what is the process of planning (with legal documents) for the inevitable? Absolutely!

The upshot from this great program is that people – everyone – need to talk to each other, to have the difficult conversations!  It is not just about getting the legal documents, medical documents and statements of your desires (which most people do not have). I can say that from my perspective as an attorney and as a mediator, it is about getting people involved with your decision making and making your wishes known so that there will be much less opportunity for guilt, conflict and recrimination among loved ones and family members.

Thanksgiving is an excellent time to remember to consider and say Dr. Byock’s four things

please forgive me

I forgive you

thank you

I love you

and maybe even have the conversation about final wishes.  It’s a holiday about gratitude after all, what more is there to be grateful for than our life?

©Barbara Cashman     www.DenverElderLaw.org

What is Elder Law and How is it Different From Estate Planning Law?

 

Elder law is a practice area that started out as an outgrowth of the more traditional trusts and estates field, but is essentially a general practice area that is concerned with the needs and legal challenges of older people (elders) as the American lifespan continues to increase.  With medical advances and relative affluence, people are living longer, and periods of incapacity are more common, along with a greater incidence of cognitive and physical disability.

Other factors that impact the growth of elder law are the outsourcing of some of the care that families have traditionally provided elders, which has resulted in no small part from the number of women in the workforce, along with family members living apart from each other geographically.  There have never been so many octogenarians on the face of the planet, and  this has important implications for attorneys practicing law, particularly for those of us who are baby boomers.

 

What are some of the “legal problems” associated with longevity relevant to elder law?  Here are some to consider:

      • Wills (especially important if part of a blended or nontraditional family, or if no children)
      • Durable Powers of Attorney (preventive tools used, among other things – to keep people out of guardianship or conservatorship proceedings in probate court);
      • Longevity  Estate (financial and tax) Planning;
      •  Elder Abuse and Financial Exploitation: Prevention,  Detection and Redress;
      • Age and Disability Discrimination in Housing;
      • Marriage, Common Law Marriage; Divorce and keeping the peace in a blended family;
      • Health Care Power of Attorney and  Advance Directives (living will);
      • Guardianship and Conservatorship probate litigation;
      • Capacity Issues in a variety of contexts (especially troubling financial concerns for someone who is starting to “slip” cognitively);
      • Probate Decedent’s Estate or Trust  Administration; and
      • Medicare and Medicaid planning.

Because elder law is a practice area defined by the client served, which means the representation of older people (elders), this sometimes involves the presence or participation of family members or other persons who are involved with caring for or supporting the elder. Elder law has developed from a relative niche practice when it was first recognized as such about thirty years ago – to more of a general practice area. As a practice area elder law is constantly developing,  and will continue to do so as we see the number of baby boomers age.   The durable power of attorney for health care is probably the most recognized symbol of the rise of the number of elders in our population. Our society will continue to grapple with many longevity and bioethics issues, and quality of life questions will loom larger as baby boomers age and the number of elders rises.

So how do elder law attorneys help their clients?  I like to say that the law in this practice area is “a healing profession.”     We help individuals, who are often supported by and rely on family members and other loved ones manage disability – negotiating the short term and long term measures to assist an elder in financial and health care decision-making.  We can also identify the legal requirements for maintaining an elder’s safety net (aging in place in community, what is effectively “social security”).  An elder law attorney with some EQ (emotional intelligence)and empathic skills can also have frank conversations and  look at legal problems in the context of financial, medical, emotional , and autonomy factors and values important to the individual.  Many elder law attorneys have a wide and deep network of allied professionals who perform work for elders as professional guardians, professional fiduciaries, money management and bill paying services, geriatric care managers, among others.

A big part of elder law is about counseling clients about how available options and alternatives can serve their identified strategy and  goals.  Each of us who has attained “elderhood” has done so in an individual way, based on certain values, attitudes and approaches to life.  You may not think that an attorney would be asking clients about these personal matters, but they are often a substantial part of how an elder law attorney approaches a client’s problem.  Why would this be beneficial to the client and his or her family or community? I think it is because many of us – me included – take a big picture approach to our client’s problems, applying helping principles in a multidisciplinary way and with a focus on empathic listening.

Here I would also offer an insight from  a favorite book of mine – Daniel Pink’s “A Whole New Mind,”   which talks about “high concept, high touch”  and in terms of the elder law attorney’s work, it takes us from being a document preparer to being a symphony conductor.   A symphony conductor . . . . really Barb?!    What I’m talking about is an ability to do my work for clients with sensitivity to the big picture of creating something unique for them  that is beautiful, an artistic expression of legal craftsmanship.  What Pink writes about is a shift from IQ alone to include also EQ (emotional intelligence), an increased value placed on creativity, and the importance of meaning-making in our work lives.  All of these are important considerations for solo attorneys, particularly those working in elder law where there is often chaos, loss, grief, and high levels of emotionality among clients and their family members.   I know that focusing on how I am helping people in creative and compassionate ways makes all the difference for me – it is why I love doing the work I do for clients.

Considerations for Estate Planning for the Terminally Ill

 

Life is unpredictable and uncertain – we all know this – but many of us struggle with these facts on a daily basis.  I think planning can help prepare all of us – whether we are healthy or ill – for the inevitable and help us take stock of what matters most in our lives.  Yes, I have even gone so far as to write about law as a healing profession in this regard!  When someone has been diagnosed with a terminal illness, the unpredictable and uncertain qualities of life take on a whole new meaning.  A conversation with a knowledgeable and sensitive attorney can help to provide individuals and families facing terminal illness with some certainty in a stage of life that is usually very difficult.  Confirming estate plans or making them for the first time, as well as making arrangements regarding health care matters like medical durable powers of attorney and advance directives, can contribute to precious peace of mind.  What many people tend to overlook is the value of this process and making the arrangements in advance.  Benefits for the ill person include a sense that “loose ends” are tied up, and a similar benefit for the survivors is gained by knowing that plans are in place and that there is a “known universe” of how to take care of practical matters after a person has passed away.  This leaves more space and time for survivors to grieve.  Fortunately, there are excellent resources in the Denver metro area to support individuals of all ages in the grieving process.  Check out the Heartlight Center, a great community resource.

What do the terminally ill need to consider?  Here’s a short list:

  • health care power of attorney (to name an agent to provide informed consent for treatment);
  • Colorado advance directives (living will);
  • the Vulcan green MOST form (Medical Orders for Scope of Treatment);
  • general (financial) power of attorney;
  • a will (to identify your beneficiaries and who will be the personal representative in charge of carrying out your wishes in your will);
  • a trust for minor or disabled children or for minor grandchildren.

These are usually not easy things to discuss, but most people benefit from this conversation and planning, coming away with reported peace of mind.  The legal issues may seem straightforward and they often are, but they may be entangled with emotional, financial and medical matters which tend to complicate things during a time of stress and anxiety.  I also recommend people facing terminal illness and their families take advantage of the many resources available to chart the difficult emotional waters of this time.  During the times when I was health care agent for my father, I found two books in particular very helpful.  One of my favorite books written by a doctor is Dying Well,  by Ira Byock, M.D., (1997) and another book of his I have blogged about is titled  The Four Things That Matter Most: A Book About Living.  The Four Things are about saying what really matters (“please forgive me,” I forgive you,” “thank you,’ and “I love you”)  before a person passes away, and Dying Well is about reclaiming dignity in the dying process and providing compassionate care for and presence with a dying loved one.

Another doctor/author I like is Jerome Groopman, M.D., who has written several books and is a contributor to The New Yorker . The Anatomy of Hope (on my bookshelf, about terminal illness) published in 2004, and Your Medical Mind,   published in 2011, about how to choose your medical decisions wisely, are especially helpful to individuals and loved ones facing terminal illness.

People facing terminal illness may not want to change anything about how they live their lives, or they may want to rearrange things entirely.  These are entirely individual decisions and each of us faces our own mortality differently.  Getting sound and sensitive advice about financial and legal matters as part of an estate planning consultation with an attorney can help bring some of the stress of the unknown into the “known world,” and ease the burden of uncertainty during difficult times.

©Barbara Cashman, LLC  www.DenverElderLaw.org