Wills & Trusts

Most everyone understands the need for a basic Will.  Yet many people have not taken the time to prepare a Will or Living Trust.  A properly drafted Will and Living Trust provides an orderly transfer of assets after a lifetime of work and can also avoid unnecessary Probate Fees and family legal conflicts.  If the heirs wish to sell the family home, lacking a Trust, the sale must be facilitated via a Court Ordered Sale process that adds more complexity to the process.

In addition, a Power of Attorney can avoid complications in the event one is incapacitated and not able to make decisions for themselves.  Not having a Living Will can cause the burning of significant assets when one is being kept alive via artificial means. There are three well-known cases that made national news involving young women, all under the age of thirty, that left their families with complex legal problems and financial hardships. Below is one such case.

On February 25, 1990, at age 26, Terri Schiavo, sustained a cardiac arrest at her home. She was successfully resuscitated however she had massive brain damage and was left comatose. After two and a half months without improvement, her diagnosis was changed to that of a persistent vegetative state. For the next two years, without success, her doctors attempted speech and physical therapy and other experimental therapy, hoping to return her to a state of awareness,. In 1998, Schiavo's husband petitioned the court to remove her feeding tube pursuant to Florida law which was opposed by Terri's parents. The court determined that Schiavo would not have wished to continue life-prolonging measures, and on April 24, 2001, her feeding tube was removed for the first time, only to be reinserted several days later. On February 25, 2005, a judge again ordered the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube. Several appeals and Federal government intervention followed, which included then President George W. Bush signing legislation moving the case to the Federal courts. After appeals through the Federal court system, the original decision to remove the feeding tube was upheld. The staff at the hospice facility disconnected the feeding tube on March 18, 2005 and Schiavo died on March 31, 2005.

Would anyone want their family to go through this for fifteen days, yet alone fifteen years? Think of the emotional toll and the costs associated with this case. The lesson here is not waiting until there is a serious medical crisis before taking the important step of getting Wills and a Trust in place.