Can we choose the moment we die?

— So many stories of dying people holding on until a loved one reaches the bedside or leaves the room make some think we may have some control over when we pass away

by Eve Glicksman

The man had promised his betrothed daughter he would walk her down the aisle. So, at the recommendation of the doctor treating him for advanced lung cancer, the wedding date was moved up by two months.

“He was a man of his word,” says Charles von Gunten, the oncologist treating him. It took enormous energy for his bed-bound patient to dress for the occasion, held in a hospice facility, and accompany his daughter down the aisle in a wheelchair, von Gunten says.

That evening, after the reception, the father of the bride died.

You may have heard a version of this story before. A parent hangs on to life until a child arrives. Or against all medical odds, someone lives to see the birth of a grandchild. Or family members sit by the bedside for two days and the loved one dies when they step out for lunch.

Can people choose the moment they die?

Lizzy Miles, a hospice social worker in Columbus, Ohio, sees it all the time. Miles’s own great aunt died “the very second her chaplain walked in the room,” she said. Her great aunt, of strong faith, had been nonresponsive and inexplicably alive for days. In hindsight, the family believes she was waiting for the chaplain.

“All these things happen [often] enough that those who work in the field aren’t surprised,” says von Gunten, a pioneer of palliative medicine in the 1990s and editor in chief of the Journal of Palliative Medicine.

One theory is that a hormonal stimulus may enable us to hang on until a special event or loved one’s arrival. “What people will do for one another in the name of love is extraordinary,” von Gunten says. “I think of it as a gift when it happens.”

But there are limits. To be clear, no scientific evidence exists that we can control the moment we die. If we could will our death, there would be no right-to-die movement or legal battles over euthanasia.

‘Just done living’

Felice LePar, an oncologist with Alliance Cancer Specialists in the Philadelphia area, also believes that people may have some sway over the timing of their death. LePar cautions families that patients sometimes die quickly after deciding on hospice; this, despite no change in their medical condition.

“We can’t fully understand it,” she says. “Some people decide that they are just done living.” Other times, when reviewing lab tests, she wonders how a patient can still be alive.

“My rule of thumb is that when someone says ‘I think it’s soon,’ I listen,” von Gunten says. “They tend to know more than I do” about when they’re dying.

Few scientific studies have explored our last moments of life. Protectiveness and respect for the deceased figure into that. Dying is seen as sacred across all cultures and getting approval from ethical review boards for such studies is difficult, von Gunten says.

Questions about potential harm to participants and intrusiveness arise, Miles add. “Do we bother people while they’re dying to ask questions?” she says. “This is a tender moment for people.”

Sociologist Glenys Caswell in Nottinghamshire, England, a self-described death studies scholar, has studied people who have died alone and stresses that it is not always sad.

“We all want different things in dying as we do in our living,” Caswell says. “Some [who are dying] don’t want people fussing over them or want to be alone when they aren’t feeling well. Others don’t want to distress their family.”

The hospice-at-home nurses whom Caswell interviewed during her research believe we have some measure of control over death after watching many patients die after loved ones left the room. “Hearing voices may be what was holding them on to life,” Caswell says. When the family leaves, they are able to relax and let go, she says.

Protective gesture

Waiting to die until people leave the bedside can be a protective gesture to spare loved ones who might not cope well, Miles says.

“It seems to happen most often when the patient is a parent,” she writes in one of her Pallimed blog posts. Her mother died when Miles took a short break to shower. The social worker says she felt guilty about that for years but learned to respect what seemed like her mother’s choice and personality. “Don’t project your own beliefs about what makes a good death,” Miles says she advises others who experience this.

LePar says people with a terminal illness often think more about the people they are leaving behind than about themselves. They do what they think their family wants, she says, and do not want to be a burden.

That’s why standard advice often includes giving permission to a loved one to die. “That reassurance can help people on both sides let go in peace,” von Gunten says.

“ ‘You’ve done what you need to do. We’re all right,’ ” Caswell suggests as an example of what to say.

Miles sees it differently, however: “If it is fear that is keeping a patient lingering, telling them it’s okay to let go may put unnecessary pressure on them to go before they are ready.”

An awareness of surroundings, people

How much do people in a nonresponsive state know about what’s going on around them? Researchers used electroencephalography to measure the brain response of dying hospice patients to voices and sounds, before and after they lost consciousness.

The study found evidence of the brain responding to sound stimuli, supporting the idea that patients may know when someone is in the room. The researchers could not confirm, however, whether the patients understood what they were hearing or were able to identify voices.

Hospice workers refrain from saying people are “unconscious,” preferring the term “nonresponsive,” Miles writes on her blog. Even actively dying patients seem to have an awareness of what’s going on in the room, she says. Minute gestures — the fluttering of an eye, a swallow or a head turn — can be a response. One patient started breathing along with the music she put on, “almost like he was conducting,” she recalls.

I am convinced my father could hear me while dying despite his deep-sleep appearance. He squeezed my hand once and there was an upward head tilt when I said I’d take care of my mother. Then, a funny, bemused lift of the brow when I said I would write about him.

More convincingly, I had been updating my father regularly on my brother and sister-in-law’s journey to be there as I received word in texts — the flight delay, rental car line, traffic. Within 15 minutes of my brother’s arrival, my father died after holding on, nonresponsive, for 16 hours.

Death is not well-understood

“It’s impossible to know, let alone prove or disprove,” says Sam Parnia, about whether we can influence our time of death. Parnia is an expert in the scientific study of cardiac arrest and death and associate professor of critical care medicine at New York University Grossman School of Medicine.

What Parnia is sure about from his research is that death is not a fixed moment and that it is not well understood. Parnia has studied thousands of testimonies from people who were resuscitated after being considered dead. They consistently described feeling conscious, lucid and aware of what was going on after their heart stopped.

“Calling the time of death when the heart stops beating and the body and brain stop functioning reflects social convention rather than the science of what is happening to the body biologically,” Parnia says. “Studies have shown categorically that our brain cells do not die for many hours after we die.”

Von Gunten advises people to behave around the dying the same as always — not being afraid they will break if you hold them, for example.

“You don’t have to keep children quiet and lights don’t have to be dimmed,” he says. “Whispering outside the door is the worst thing you can do if that person always wants to know everything.”

Ideally, the dying person will have talked to family and friends about their end-of-life wishes beforehand, Caswell says. Who do you want at your bedside, or do you prefer solitude? Do you want to listen to a cherished symphony during your last hours or have someone read a favorite poem? It’s a hard conversation to have but everyone benefits from that openness, Caswell says.

Dying is the last thing you do in life. Why shouldn’t it be exactly as you want it, and maybe even the moment you want it.

Complete Article HERE!

What ‘old age’ actually means as a cause of death

By Gabriella Ferlita

The Queen’s cause of death has been announced, and people are now wondering what it really means.

After spending more than 70 years on the throne and dying at age 96, the cause of the Queen’s passing has recently been announced as that of ‘old age’.

While it’s very common to hear that somebody has died ‘of old age’, the phenomenon in itself is extremely rare from a medical perspective.

While we often mean that an older person has died of complications attributed to their age, like pneumonia, or as a result of a heart attack, it should only be provided as the sole cause of death in ‘very limited circumstances’ by a coroner on somebody’s death certificate.

The Queen’s cause of death has officially been announced. Credit: Graham Hunt / Alamy Stock Photo
The Queen’s cause of death has officially been announced.

Ageing, in itself, cannot cause somebody to die. There is, however, a condition called ‘Geriatric failure to thrive’, which medical professionals have studied which ‘describes a state of decline’ in older patients who may experience ‘weight loss, decreased appetite, poor nutrition, and inactivity.’

According to GP notebook, there are few situations in which ‘old age’ can be penned as somebody’s cause of death by a medical professional – including having ‘personally caring for the deceased over a long period (years, or many months)’ and ‘observing a gradual decline in your patient’s general health and function.’

Other situations which would allow such a prognosis includes a lack of awareness around ‘any identifiable disease or injury that contributed to the death’, and being ‘certain that there is no reason that the death should be reported to the coroner’.

'Old age' is rarely used as a cause of death on a medical certificate. Credit: Unsplash
‘Old age’ is rarely used as a cause of death on a medical certificate.

They also add: “It is unlikely that patients would be admitted to an acute hospital if they had no apparent disease or injury.”

Doctors are also advised to also mention ‘as appropriate, any medical or surgical conditions that may have contributed to the death’ alongside ‘old age’.

Doctors are also advised to also mention ‘as appropriate, any medical or surgical conditions that may have contributed to the death’ alongside ‘old age’.

Complete Article HERE!

Final moments of life have one thing in common

— Three professionals who work with death and dying have described the one thing they all have in common.

By Bek Day

Woody Allen famously said “I’m not afraid of death, I just don’t want to be there when it happens,” and whatever you think of the scandal-plagued filmmaker’s behaviour in life, it’s a sentiment many can agree with.

“We live in a death-denying culture,” says Dr Merran Cooper, who is also trained as an end-of-life doula and physiotherapist. “By denying the possibility we might die, and having conversations about it, we deny ourselves the opportunity to have the most important conversations of our lives with the most important people.”

But just what are those all-important final moments like for people? Is death really as frightening as we think?

News.com.au spoke to three professionals who work with death and dying and their descriptions all had one major thing in common: it’s usually more peaceful than you might expect.

Camilla Rowland, CEO of Palliative Care Australia

“My experience has been that usually as the different organs start to shut down, people come in and out of a semiconscious state, and it is usually very peaceful,” Camilla explains, adding that the feeling of someone’s ‘spirit’ ‘energy’ filling the room is also common.

“I’ve had that experience, and also many other members of my palliative care team have said that as well, that they felt the spirit of the person around them. And that’s not necessarily a religious thing, it’s just a feeling that occurs. I’ve had people from all walks of life and all different belief systems say the same thing.”

Patsy Bingham, Death Doula

“Peace, calm, relief, hysteria – there could be any one of these feelings depending on who died, how they died and whether they were too young to die,” explains Patsy.

“But for everyone, it is a defined moment in time, and I have a habit of looking at the clock when someone takes their last breath, as family members don’t, and then ask later.”

Dr Merran Cooper, CEO of Touchstone Life Care

“Everyone dies differently but most commonly, when death is expected, a person begins to sleep more, and breath more shallowly until it is very hard to tell whether they are breathing or not,” Dr Cooper explains.

“It can be a peaceful thing to watch. There are noises that worry the person watching, and even bleeding which is distressing to watch, but for the person dying, they slowly move to a place of deeper and deeper unconsciousness until they do not take the next breath.”

Complete Article HERE!

How to plan for the death of a loved one

By Joel Theisen

The end of life doesn’t need to be filled with pain, frustration, guilt and clashing family dynamics.

My grandpa was dying of bone cancer, an especially gruesome way to go. He’d shriveled down to 85 pounds. The bathtub was one of the few things that brought him comfort.

So there we sat in his final days as he talked about his life and the things he cared about. He was riddled with pain, yet cracking jokes right and left. We spent hours laughing out loud. It was his way of telling me that he was at peace. And it was one of the most beautiful experiences I’ve had as a human being.

After 30 years as a nurse and chief executive of a senior care company that has served over a million lives in the community and within senior housing, I’ve experienced more than my share of death. I learned that the end of life needn’t be filled with pain and frustration, with guilt and clashing family dynamics. It can be a time to cherish the spark in a loved one’s eye, their spirit and wisdom. And that we can help them die in the most positive way possible.

Your wishes codified

I’ve seen it often through the years. A terminal illness arrives. The dying person’s last wishes aren’t in place. Now tough decisions need to be made in a moment of crisis. Everyone in the family has their own opinion, freighted by our cultural fear of death. I’ve seen it get ugly, with families torn apart. Our loved one doesn’t get the death she wants.

I’ve also seen the opposite, when death is peaceful and lovely. The difference is usually a POLST–portable medical orders — an end of life plan conceived with your doctor that travels with you from hospital to nursing home, or wherever your journey takes you. The idea is to outline your wishes before crisis hits, rather than leaving it to group decisions in times of trauma.

You can take a curative route, signifying your willingness to undergo any treatment as long as there’s a shot. You can take a palliative path, which focuses more on bringing relief and comfort to your final days. Or you can choose a mixture of both, dictating whether you want such things as a feeding tube, a ventilator, or to even be taken to a hospital at all.

The POLST informs family and facilities of exactly what you want. When those final days arrive and family gathers at bedside, there’s no need to speculate on medical choices. Everything that’s important is already in place.

Hospice

Chances are that a loved one with a terminal condition is already eligible for hospice care, offered free to Medicare recipients who’ve been certified by a doctor as having six or less months to live. The program was conceived by the federal government after realizing that people were spending most of their money during the last two years of life. Their savings were being drained by extraordinary measures that didn’t really help, rather than concentrating on the supportive care they truly needed.

Instead of sending you to a hospital, hospice comes to you, be it your home of 40 years, or your apartment in an assisted living facility, or even a relative’s house. It’s all about comfort. You’ll be cared for by experts in death and dying whose mission is to provide the least restrictive experience possible.

Nurses, aides, and physicians work within your plan. They can bring you a hospital bed to help you sleep or equipment to help you breathe. There’s spiritual care, music therapy, visiting aides, volunteers, and bereavement coverage for family. There’s also a pain management plan, with the goal of making the end of life as serene as possible.

The most peaceful deaths I’ve seen are when people die in their own homes on their own terms. The Medicare hospice program helps make that happen, especially when it’s used sooner than the final days of life.

This doesn’t mean you can’t turn back. We’re humans. We get scared. You can leave hospice whenever you want for one last shot with chemo and radiation. The larger point is that you and your family are educated early, preparing emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. And that someone will be with you the entire journey, holding mom’s hand — or your hand if that’s what you need — to help you make the most of those final days.

I know about trauma. My sister died in a car crash at age 43, leaving behind two kids. It was a horrific experience, but we’ve chosen to make the most of it.

Every year we take a family vacation. And every year we set aside time to celebrate my sister. We talk about our feelings and frustrations, our love and loss. It’s not always a glorious celebration. But it’s helpful.

Circumstances didn’t allow us to prepare for her death. So we’re trying to make the most of it in retrospect.

Like it or not, no one on this planet is getting out alive. Though our finish line may be the same, the ways we get there — and the methods we choose to deal with the aftermath — are often up to us. A solid plan for the final stages will help both us and our survivors. Start talking now with your loved ones. The more we do, the less we fear the inevitable. What you discover may provide the means for not just an end, but a magnificent one.

Complete Article HERE!

The funeral industry turns people into toxic waste.

— California needs green burial options

By Amelia Gallegos

For as long as I can remember, I have been fascinated by death. As a child, it inspired my curiosity about the life cycle. As an adult, it inspired my career. As a funeral director who specializes in environmentally-friendly funeral services, I meet many Californians who reach out wanting to find the most sustainable deathcare option.

That Californians would want sustainable alternatives to traditional burial and cremation makes sense. California has long been a leader when it comes to environmental protections. But there’s no reason those protections can’t extend through a person’s entire life cycle.

Traditional burial and cremation practices are disastrous for the environment. Traditional burial puts over 800,000 gallons of formaldehyde (a known carcinogen), 104,000 tons of steel, 1.6 million tons of reinforced concrete, and 30 million board feet of hardwood in the ground across the United States every year. For perspective, that is more steel than was used in the construction of the Golden Gate bridge. Every year.

Cremation presents its own issues. The average cremation emits an estimated 534.6 pounds of CO2. With 300,000 people dying in California in 2020, and 65% of Californians choosing to be cremated, our state released well over 100 million pounds of CO2 in cremations that year alone. During the pandemic, air quality standards in Los Angeles had to be suspended to allow for the backlog of cremations.

Californians and the planet deserve better.

“Human composting,” or natural organic reduction (NOR) is a regenerative, sustainable alternative to traditional burial or cremation that gently transforms the body into a cubic-yard of nutrient rich soil. In NOR, a body is placed in a steel vessel on a bed of wood chips and other biodegradable materials that allow it to naturally decompose. Once the decomposition process has fully converted the remains into soil—a process that typically takes around 30 days—the soil is then returned to the family. From there, families can decide to scatter or plant with the soil or to donate it to be used for land conservation and restoration.

Ranging in cost from $5,500 to $7,000, NOR is cheaper than traditional burial in California—which costs on average $7,225—and is comparable in cost to cremation in the state—which has an average price tag of $6,028. But unlike traditional burial and cremation, NOR actually supports the environment.

In 2019, Washington became the first state to legalize NOR, followed by Colorado, Oregon and Vermont. Environmentally conscious Californians I meet that are planning to have their body transported out of state in order to access NOR tell me they’re doing so because they want their last act to mirror how they lived their lives. They want their passing to have a positive environmental impact.

Fortunately, Californians seeking NOR may soon no longer have to travel out of state. Earlier this year, Assemblymembers Cristina Garcia and Robert Rivas introduced AB 351. The bill, which passed in the state legislature with strong bipartisan support, would legalize NOR in California—making ours the fifth state in the nation to approve soil transformation deathcare. The bill is currently awaiting approval from Governor Newsom.

True, Californians already have some green alternatives to traditional burial and cremation. Green burials, in which a body is buried in a shroud and water cremation, first legalized in 2017, are both options. But having some eco-friendlier alternatives doesn’t preclude the state from providing its residents with another—especially when that option offers significant savings in carbon emissions, water, and land usage.

Nothing is more clear and natural in death than returning to the earth itself. By signing AB 351 into law, the governor can ensure that every Californian has the option to choose the most sustainable option in deathcare.

Complete Article HERE!

With its queen gone, Britain ponders how to discuss death

A woman reacts next to flowers and messages for Queen Elizabeth II at the Green Park memorial, near Buckingham Palace, in London, Sept. 10, 2022. Because she reigned and lived for so long, Queen Elizabeth II’s death was a reminder that mortality and the march of time are inexorable.

By John Leicester 

Where goes Queen Elizabeth II, there — inevitably — go each of us and all those we love.

Because she reigned and lived for so long, seemingly immutable and immortal, the death of the British monarch after 70 years on the throne and 96 years of extraordinary life was a reminder, in Britain and beyond, that mortality and the march of time are inexorable, waiting for neither man nor woman, even a royal.

That kernel of wisdom from Elizabeth’s passing, the last of many she dispensed during her lifetime, is uncomfortable, even difficult, for the living. The reality of death — the queen’s being, by extension, a glimpse at the eventuality of their own — is part of the reason why some Britons mourning the only monarch most have known are feeling a complex soup of emotions.

Some have called bereavement counselors for solace and said her departure has rekindled grief for others they loved and lost. And Britons acknowledge that they sometimes struggle with the emotions of loss. “We don’t necessarily do grief and bereavement that well,” says Lucy Selman, a professor of palliative and end-of-life care at Bristol University.

British bereavement experts are hoping, however, that the queen’s death and its manner — at home, with family, in her beloved Balmoral Castle — might also spur a national conversation about the sometimes awkward relationship that Britons have with dying. In the process, the experts hope, it might prompt them to better prepare for the inevitable.

“If we are going to die in a way that we hope is peaceful, comfortable, and satisfying for us, we have got to do what the queen did: Recognize that it is going to happen at some point and put some plans in place for what we want and what we don’t want to happen,” says Kathryn Mannix, author of “With the End in Mind: How to Live and Die Well.”

Mannix has witnessed thousands of deaths in her 30-year career as a palliative care physician. She says it became clear in the last two years of Elizabeth’s life that she was dying. She recognized familiar patterns — in the slowdown of the habitually frenetic queen’s schedule and the preparations she made.

In her final months, Elizabeth made it known that when now-King Charles III succeeded her, she wanted his wife, Camilla, to be known as “Queen Consort.” And she lingered to see her grandson, Prince William, and his wife, Kate, relocate their family from central London to a royal cottage in Windsor.

One of her very last actions as queen was to ask Conservative Party leader Liz Truss to become her 15th and, as it turned out, last prime minister. That audience was last Tuesday, Sept. 6. It was the first time in Elizabeth’s reign that she’d been away from her official London residence, Buckingham Palace, for a prime ministerial appointment. Instead, she stayed in Balmoral, her Scottish vacation home, and Truss traveled to her.

Duty done, the queen died two days later. Mannix was reminded of other deaths she encountered in her medical career, of people who clung to life “to hear the news that a baby has been born or an exam has been passed” and who then relaxed “very quickly into dying.”

“There is nothing at all disrespectful about recognizing that even our monarchs are mortal and that what happens at the very ends of people’s lives is a recognizable pattern,” Mannix says. “We perhaps can use this as an occasion to start to think about knowing the pattern, being able to recognize the pattern, being able to talk to each other about the pattern — not being afraid of it.”

>Described by the government as “a period of time for reflection,” the 10 days of national mourning decreed for Elizabeth’s passing are also, unavoidably, giving dying, loss and bereavement starring roles in the wall-to-wall media coverage of the queen’s life and times.

Bereavement experts say the rituals of communal grieving and the mourning period — practically an age in the swipe-and-tap era of short attention spans — are an exceptional and important opportunity for Britons to adjust to the loss of a queen and the gaining of a king, and to process the emotions and anxiety that enormous change sometimes brings.

For young people, “this might be first time that they learn about the finality of life and what that means,” says psychologist Bianca Neumann, the head of bereavement at Sue Ryder, a British charity that offers support through terminal illness and loss.

“We never really look at the end of life like that, unless we have to,” she says. “It would be nice as a nation if those conversations could become more mainstream.”

Psychotherapist Julia Samuel, who was a close friend of the late Princess Diana, is urging Britons to pause and digest their loss. Posting on Instagram, she said that “if we just keep going and doing what we normally do, our brain isn’t given the information to let us know that something very big has happened.”

“The task of mourning is to adjust to the reality of a death,” she says. “To do that, we need to let our brain kind of slow down.”

To be fair, British conversations about death and loss have taken place for centuries. In “Hamlet,” Shakespeare had his prince muse famously about the human condition, clutching the skull of Yorick, a court jester.

“Alas, poor Yorick! I knew him,” Hamlet mourns. “Where be your gibes now? Your gambols? Your songs?”

>Britons also surprised themselves and the world, casting off their reputation as a nation of stiff upper lips, with a deluge of public tears over the death of Princess Diana in 1997.

“The pendulum went from the one side to the other,” says Adrian Furnham, a London-based professor of organizational psychology at the Norwegian Business School and author of “Psychology 101: The 101 Ideas, Concepts and Theories that Have Shaped Our World.”

“It’s now much more acceptable, and indeed a lot more healthy, to ‘let it out,’” he says. “That has changed in this country, because there was a time when that was distinctly a sign of weakness.”

Still, Britons concede that they could do better in helping others and themselves through bereavement. Sue Ryder last year launched a “Grief Kind” campaign, to help people find words when those around them lose loved ones.

Selman is a founding director of the “Good Grief Festival,” started during the COVID-19 pandemic to break taboos around dying. She hopes mourning for the queen will produce “a bit more awareness and an ongoing discussion about bereavement and loss and our social attitudes towards it.”

“There’s a conversation to be had about what a good death is,” she says. “And what we can do to try and ensure that we have the death that we want.”

Complete Article HERE!

No Will?

You’re Putting Your Kids at Risk

By Natasha Meruelo

Many people delay the conversation or thoughts of having to prepare a will. Confronting the possibility of one’s death is not easy. However, as the recent death of Anne Heche shows us, not having a will can place a significant burden on your children and cause undesirable complications. Even if difficult, planning ahead may be a better solution than the alternative.

What Happened With Actress Anne Heche?

Anne Heche’s case is a good example of why a person may want to consider creating a will sooner rather than later. Heche was divorced with two children from different relationships when she passed away. Her eldest son is 20 years old, but her younger son is still a minor.

Although they are assumed to be her sole heirs, only her oldest son is of age to administer her estate. He has filed a petition for a guardian ad litem to be put in place to protect his younger brother’s interests. The guardian ad litem may be a financial burden to Heche’s estate, and the costs of securing this professional will potentially reduce the assets available to her sons.

Even though her eldest son is dealing with his mother’s estate, this is undoubtedly very difficult for a person to go through at such a young age. Heche’s eldest son likely will not be able to do this all on his own and will need the services of a probate attorney — likely further increasing the costs of administering her estate and depleting how much is left for her children.

It has also been reported that an inventory and appraisal of her estate is needed to determine its worth and what assets she had. This process requires further professional involvement and fees that her estate must pay. In addition, it is possible that the father of her youngest son may seek to intervene in the estate’s administration to ensure he is treated fairly. Litigation costs could rack up quickly if there is any disagreement related to this.

Preparing a will and other estate planning documents can make legal proceedings significantly less complex and expensive and keep your situation as private as possible. It can also make it easier for your loved ones to know exactly what you want to happen to your assets and possessions.

Who Inherits When You Die Without a Will?

Many people do not realize that if you pass away without a will, your local state laws on intestacy will determine who qualifies as your heirs and inherits your property.

For example, in many states, if a person passes away unmarried but with children, the children will inherit everything. But what if the person had a long-term partner or was engaged to be married? They may have wanted their significant other to inherit some of their assets, but a “default” state law may lead to a different result. Or, what if you have no living children, siblings, parents, or spouse? Your property may go to the government instead of friends, grandchildren, nieces, or nephews. Having a will prevents these scenarios from happening.

Choose a Guardian for Your Children

Another benefit parents should consider is their ability to choose a guardian for their children in advance.

This matters, for example, when the other parent is not living or cannot be located. If a person does not set forth their wishes ahead of time, multiple parties may step up after a person’s death and argue over who should care for any minor children.

A court may be tasked with making this decision, and it may not be what you would have wanted. This can be expensive, traumatic for all involved, and a long process. Courts will generally try to appoint the individual a person has selected if your wishes are in a will or other planning document.

The Bottom Line

The bottom line is that having estate planning documents in place makes your wishes more likely to be honored and less likely that a court will decide what happens. This is also true where you may be incapacitated and unable to voice your wishes. While Anne Heche’s situation is not unusual, it is avoidable.

Complete Article HERE!