We have all read the articles – sad stories about families torn apart because loved ones disagree about what medical steps to take – or not take – at the end of life. In some cases, the ill person had no legal documents about his or her care. In others, documents exist, but family members disagree about what the person wanted. That is why I offer everyone the same advice: have the document, and then have the conversation.

Working with an attorney to prepare and execute a health care proxy means that there will be clear legal direction as to who is empowered to make medical decisions when you can not make them for yourself. Here in Massachusetts, you can only name one person to serve at a time, but you can provide a list of people so that there is always someone to step in.

In Massachusetts, however, that document can not legally bind the health care agent to take or forgo certain steps. And even in states where you can have a legally binding health care directive, just having it doesn’t help a family to deal with the reality of losing a family member. That is why the equally important second step is to talk with people about your beliefs and wishes for end of life care. Talk with the health care agent and successors, but also with other people who would be involved – parents, siblings, adult children. It is a gift to the decision maker to have support for the decisions he or she will have to make, and it will give the others involved the opportunity to process your wishes and be able to support the decision maker.

 Metrowest estate planning attorneys, John Dugan and Jennifer Taddeo are located in Franklin, Massachusetts. The team concentrates in Massachusetts estate planning and probate and trust administration. They work  with clients to develop and implement estate plans that reflect both their financial and personal goals. If you have questions regarding estate planning, please contact the estate planning attorneys at DCDC Law.