Why Do I Need a Living Will?


Why Do I Need a Living Will?

You have the right to make decisions about how to live your life—and how you want to be treated at the end of your life.

A Living Will is a document to direct your medical care when you are terminally ill or injured and no longer able to communicate your wishes. Improved medical technology and treatments now create a distinction between quality of life and living. It is essential to express your own desires for treatment at the end of your life.

In New Jersey, a Living Will is called an advanced directive. Your advanced directive includes information such as the following:

  • Designation of a healthcare representative: Your healthcare proxy has a durable power of attorney to make end of life decisions for you. Careful thought should be given to this appointment. Speak with your representative to be sure they are willing to take this often stressful job. Clearly discuss how and when you would like your life to end.
  • Instructions at end of life: Communicating with family members when you are terminally ill is difficult and may be impossible. Take the time now to thoughtfully consider how you wish to be medically treated. When the advanced directive is needed, you have peace of mind and some certainty. Your family has the comfort of knowing your choices are being carried out.

It is important to work with an experienced attorney to prepare your advanced directive. Your wishes at the end of life are deeply personal. A well-crafted advanced directive records your decisions in a way that professional caregivers can respond legally and appropriately to your wishes.

As noted by the Rutgers Cancer Institute, general questions to consider for your advanced directive include:

  • Who should make medical decisions for you when you are no longer able
  • Directions about what kind of medical and life-extending aid you wish
  • Instructions on comfort, personal care and who should be with you

Ensure your Living Will is available when needed. Be sure your healthcare proxy and close personal friends have a copy of the executed advanced directive. Inform your family where a copy can be found and clearly mark the file.

Your wishes may change with time. When they do, speak with your proxy and your attorney to ensure your Living Will communicates what it needs to when the time comes.

If you have questions about a Living Will or updating an advanced directive, speak with a skilled estate planning attorney serving Union County.



The Casey Kasem Saga from an Estate Planning Perspective [UPDATED]

Casey Kasem’s Story

If you have been reading online, you have probably seen the Casey Kasem sad story unfolding right before your eyes.  Unfortunately, Mr. Kasem’s story can teach us how to prepare for situations like his using Medical Powers of Attorney or Advanced Directives in New Jersey.

Most of us remember Casey Kasem and his American Top 40 voice booming every Sunday morning.  When I think of music and my childhood, Casey Kasem is the #1 thought that comes to my mind.  My #2 thought is telling my uncle at the age of 9 that “I live for Bon Jovi” – but that’s another story.

Time marches on and Mr. Kasem is now 82 years old.  Unfortunately, we can learn a lot (from an Estate Planning and Elder Law perspective) from the story that broke over the weekend about Mr. Kasem, his wife, and his daughter.

You might have read the story of Mr. Kasem’s disappearance to Washington in the last couple of weeks.  Apparently he was “just on vacation” according to his wife, Jean Kasem.

Kerri Kasem, Mr. Kasem’s daughter, tells a different story.  According to Kerri Kasem, her father “had developed bed sores and infections in his lungs and bladder while in Washington.”

Judges in California and Washington agreed, and they ruled that Kerri should have control over her father’s medical care.  But that’s when things got seriously weird.  On Sunday, June 1, 2014, when an ambulance came to take Mr. Kasem to the hospital, Jean Kasem started throwing raw meat and citing biblical scripture as they took her husband away. [SEE UPDATE BELOW]

“In the name of King David, I threw a piece of raw meat into the street in exchange for my husband to the wild rabid dogs,” Jean Kasem told NBC News, citing Biblical scripture.

Medical Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives

The plight of Mr. Kasem, my iconic childhood music hero, can teach us a few things about Estate Planning and Elder law, especially in New Jersey.

There are a couple of planning tools that could have been used had Mr. Kasem been in New Jersey.  Most, if not every, state has similar tools, and therefore if you live in another state you can probably take advantage of similar estate planning tools.

Specifically, Mr. Kasem can use a New Jersey Medical Power of Attorney (or healthcare proxy) to name an agent to speak and act on his behalf in the event of incapacitation.  This agent can work with Mr. Kasem’s doctor to ensure he receives the best possible treatment.

Mr. Kasem can also create an Advanced Directive, which basically spells out his wishes in specific circumstances, e.g. which medications he would want to take, whether or not to keep him on life support, etc.  This Advanced Directive can also name an agent to act on his behalf if there are situations not enumerated in the Advanced Directive.

If Kerri Kasem had been in New Jersey, and she wanted to assume control over her father’s medical care without these documents (or even if Mr. Kasem named his wife as his agent to strip his wife of her rights), she could file a complaint to be appointed guardian and list the reasons for her filing.  The court would then decide what would be in the best interests of Mr. Kasem, in some cases appointing an independent conservator if the court would rule that neither wife nor daughter would act in Mr. Kasem’s best interests.

We can never know with absolute certainty what would have happened had Mr. Kasem been in New Jersey, but all we can do now is hope that he is receiving the best treatment possible so that he can fully recover.  If you have any questions about any of these estate planning or elder law concepts, please call Alec Borenstein at 908-236-6457 or email him at alec@bmcestateplanning.com.

Casey Kasem Update

According to CNN, new information has come to light about Mr. Kasem’s medical history.  CNN writes:

Casey Kasem has Lewy body disease, the most common type of progressive dementia after Alzheimer’s…

Three weeks ago, a California court awarded Kerri Kasem temporary durable power of attorney and health care directive and has ordered Jean Kasem to surrender Casey Kasem’s passport to the daughter. The California judge also ordered that Casey Kasem can’t travel anywhere without a court order until a doctor clears him.

One of Casey Kasem’s other daughters, Julie Kasem, and her husband, Dr. Jamil Aboulhosn, have said her father signed papers in 2007 giving them the power of attorney over his heath care in the event he was unable to make his own health decisions.

But Julie and Kerri Kasem and their brother, Mike Kasem, have contended since last year that Jean Kasem has prevented the three siblings from visiting their father.

Jean Kasem said in court papers last year that the three children “single-handedly and irreparably shattered” the couple’s lives by deploying public demonstrations and attacks in the media, according to CNN affiliate KCBS.

Kerri Kasem’s temporary conservatorship over her father is in effect until June 20, when another California court hearing is scheduled on whether to make the conservatorship permanent.

California clearly has similar laws to New Jersey, and Kerri Kasem is her father’s temporary conservator.  We should know more later this month.  Again, our best wishes are with Mr. Kasem and his family.


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