Straits Times article entitled Strong family hand in patients' last days published on 5 September 2011 provides us with various issues faced by persons in their last days.
According to a study “What Doctors Say about Care of the Dying,” it was found that family members tend to play a significant role in the patients’ last days even to the extent of denying the dying the right to settle their own personal affairs. This is done by threatening doctors with complains or lawsuits should doctors disclose the seriousness of the medical conditions to the patients directly. Reasons why family members do this vary. It could be because family members do not wish the patients the burden of knowledge and burden of responsibility of making decisions. Other reason is due to ‘face’ in which adult children insist on treatment even when it is futile. Finally, the study found many elderly patients were often aware of the high medical bills and were reluctant to burden their children with financial burden.
This study was insightful. Whatever the reasons why family members do not wish their love one to know they are dying, it is obvious that in practice it is difficult if not impossible to settle one’s affairs in the last days. Mentally, one may not be fit to write a simple Will. Even if a person is mentally competent, he or she may not even know they are dying since family members tend to deny the patients’ right to know this. The study revealed that some doctors were threatened with lawsuits if they would to disclose the true nature of the condition to the patients directly. Therefore, here is my advice:
- It is neither practical nor advisable to settle one’s ‘personal affairs’ to the last days. You may not even know you are in the last days.
- For parents with children who are still minors should make sure they have sufficient resources left behind for their dependents. Obviously this cannot be done during the last days. If there is insufficient resource, buy insurance to make up the shortfall. Term insurance is able to provide a competitive coverage at an affordable cost. Insurance cannot be bought when one is dying.
- Even if you already have sufficient resource for your dependents, make sure you already have an estate plan installed by a professional estate planner. There is no such thing as an “automatic” plan. Note that writing a Will and making a CPF Nomination isn’t estate planning just as designing a building does not start from construction stage.
- Make sure your love one is able to handle your investments. If you have bought into complex investment products such as structured notes, hedge funds and other toxic assets like CDOs, they will not be able to understand it and neither can they liquidate it. If they would to liquidate it, your love one could end up suffering large financial losses. This means – keep your investment simple.
- If you like your investments to ‘continue’ in the hands of your love ones, you can always appoint a professional investment adviser or a fund manager to do that. This can be incorporated into the estate plan.
- Ensure you have kept a simple inventory listing of your assets. How is your family going to know where your assets are kept?
- Make sure you already have a guardian for your children. Ensure this appointed person has the legal power to become the guardian. Ask your professional estate planner if in doubt.
Finally, make sure you have medical insurance so that there is no financial burden on anyone.
This article was first published with Imsavvy CPF Board'shttp://www.cpf.gov.sg/imsavvy/blog_post.asp?postid=557238457-280-1091882586
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