Advance Directives and Living
Wills

National Healthcare Decisions Day

Every Year April 16th is NATIONAL HEALTHCARE DECISIONS DAY

To honor the commitment that “your decision matters” on that day, Karen Ann Quinlan Hospice offers free living will packets for either NJ or PA when you stop into their office at 99 Sparta Ave, Newton NJ. If you call that day, one can also be mailed to you.

You may also print out an Advance Directive for your state by visiting either of these sites:

Advance Directives

Eventually, a life-limiting illness will take away a patient’s ability to make health care decisions. While the decisions still have to be made, someone else has to make them. If plans have not been made, this can
become a burden, cause delay, or lead to costly and lengthy court proceedings. Steps should be taken to control these decisions so the patient’s wishes will be respected.

Living Wills

A living will is a statement about the patient’s wishes regarding medical treatment that directs the doctors when the patient is no longer able to communicate their desires. If a patient does not want to be kept on life-prolonging devices (such as feeding tubes, IV’s, or respirators), it needs to be specifically stated in a living will. A copy of the living will should be given to the patient’s doctor, the hospice, any treatment center where the patient resides (i.e., a hospital or nursing home), and to the designated
proxy.

The living will does not affect life insurance and cannot be required for being insured or for the receipt of health care services. Any medical treatment that is used for the purpose of providing comfort or alleviation of pain will be continued unless otherwise stated in the will.

Proxy Designation

One way to ensure that the patient’s wishes will be honored is the naming of someone who is trusted for the making of medical decisions. This person is named as a proxy, or durable power of attorney, to make only those medical decisions related to the care of the patient. This person should be named in the living will. A replacement should also be named in case the person originally named is unable or unwilling to perform the duties of the proxy. If a proxy is not named by the patient, state law will determine guardianship.

If you have any questions you about living wills or proxy designation, contact the hospice. We will do our best to answer any questions you may have, and help refer you to the appropriate resources.

Estate Concerns

After your loved one has passed on, there are many things that you need to do. The first things that the executor of the estate needs to do are:

  • Locate the original will (the will must be signed and witnessed).
  • Contact social security.
  • Call the Veteran’s Administration if your loved one was a veteran.
  • Contact employers for information on pension benefits.

The next thing that needs to be done is to apply for probate of the will. Probate is the procedure by which the court will prove the will to be valid or invalid. In most cases, probate involves collecting the deceased’s assets, liquidating liabilities, paying necessary taxes, and distributing property to the named heirs. The executor should visit the Surrogate’s Office, known as the Registrar of Wills in some cases, of their country. They should bring with them:

  • The original will
  • The death certificate with a raised seal
  • Names and addressed of persons named in the will and all next of kin
  • Petition for grant of letter with oath of personal representative (in Pike County)

Probate fees will vary with each estate. The Surrogate’s Office (Registrar of Wills) will issue Surrogates certificates which give the executor authority to act for the estate.

Creating A Will

It is important to have a will so that you can direct exactly how your property should be distributed, rather than leaving that to task to the state. When writing your will, it is also important to follow all legal
guidelines. Your will must be signed and documented, and it is important to have it notarized. If the will is not notarized, than witnesses will have to be provided and will have to come in to sign witness forms. It may be best to contact your lawyer and ask for assistance in forming you will.

Why Have a Will?

Your will ranks up there as one of the most important and far
reaching documents that you will ever sign. A will should be viewed as an
expression of you and your feeling for your loved ones, as well as those causes
and institutions close to your heart. This is what a will empowers you to
do:

  • It lets you decide who will receive al the property you own and have accumulated through the years. If you have no will the state decides who receives what according to very inflexible rules.
  • Your will contains the names of the persons who you select to handle your estate.
  • As a parent this is the document where you would name the guardian/s of your children.
    Reflect your desire to held friends, family members, nonprofit causes and institutions.
  • Draft the document with the help of your attorney to minimize death taxes that will be facing your family after your death.
  • Make a final expression of your personal values. You could provide aid to a special friend and distribute the most cherished possessions of your life.

To accomplish all of this is not hard. Nor, in most cases, is it expensive. It does necessitate on your part thoughtful decisions.

What If a Change Needs to be Made?

Make a small change in your will can be done by using a “codicil”. This is simply an amendment that will take care of your desired change while at the same time preserve the balance of your will.

If you find you need to make major changes, a new will would be the recommended path. Your new will would also need to specifically revoke all previous will that might exist.

In either situation you will need your attorney’s help. Every 3 or 4 years it is recommended hat you visit with your attorney regarding your will. There might be some changes that you would not know about in state and federal laws that could affect you.

If you find that you have to make changes to your will, we hope that you would give positive consideration to one more: A bequest to Karen Ann Quinlan Charitable Foundation. A simple statement
is all it would take:

“I bequest to Karen Ann Quinlan Charitable
Foundation, located at 99 Sparta Avenue,
Newton, NJ 07860 the sum of $______
for its’ purposes.”

Types of Bequests

They are several different types of bequests you can use to accomplish your objectives: Specific, General, Residuary, Contingent, and Percentage.

Specific Bequest:

During the distribution of an estate a specific bequest is always satisfied first. When the estate is not large enough to cover all the bequests, the specific requests are satisfied first. A specific bequest is a bequest of a specific item, distinguished from all other items- “my grandfather clock,” “my savings account at _____ Bank #2929440,””my blue Oriental rug.” If you dispose of the item expressed in a specific bequest during your lifetime and do not update your will, the intended recipient of that bequest does not receive anything. A good reason to periodically review.

General Bequest:

During the distribution of an estate, the general bequest is satisfied second. A general bequest is a bequest of property, which is similar to all other items of the same kind, usually cash. When there is insufficient cash to meet the general bequests, property passing under the residue will be sold to raise the necessary cash.

Percentage Bequest:

A percentage bequest is a bequest that is based on a percentage (5%, 10%, 50%) of the residue of another asset. When you utilize percentage bequests in your will, it is very likely that the recipient will receive something, as was your intention. But there is no precise way to tell exactly what dollar amount the bequest will be worth.

Residuary Bequest:

A residuary bequest is a bequest of all or a portion of the balance of your estate after the specific and general requests are satisfied. The residue is the last portion of your estate to be settled. The residue is the last portion of your estate after the specific and general requests are satisfied.

Contingent Bequest:

You can set up a contingent bequest to take effect if your primary intention cannot be met or maybe that person predeceases you.

If There is No Will

If there is no property will be distributed according to the state’s intestacy laws. The surviving spouse, or the next of kin if there is no spouse, may apply to the Surrogate (Registrar) to become the administrator of the estate. To apply to become administrator, you must bring:

  • A death certificate with a raised seal
  • Names and addresses of next of kin
  • An estimated value of the estate Petition for grant of letters of administration with oath of personal representative (Pike County)

Again, fees will vary with each estate.

Contact Information

There are many different organizations that may need to be contacted after your loved one has passed on. A few of the more important ones are:

Sussex:

Sussex County Surrogate: (973)579-0920

Hall of Records, 4 Park Place, Newton, NJ 07860

Veterans Administration: (973)383-4949

Sussex County Office on Aging: (973)827-5421

Social Security Administration : (800)772-1213

Warren:

Warren County Surrogate: (908)475-6223

Warren County Office on Aging (908)475-6591

NJ Bureau of Veteran’s Services (908)689-5840

Social Security Administration (800)772-1213

Pike:

Pike County Register of Wills (570)296-3508

506 Broad Street, Milford, PA 18337

Area Office on Aging: (570)775-5550

Veterans Affairs: (570)296-3563

Social Security Administration (570)342-8062

Personal Records

If it can be very helpful to have the family to have photocopies of records/documents which are needed to settle an estate stored in a place where they are easily available. The original documents should be kept in a fireproof box, safe deposit box, or safe. The items you should have photocopied
and stored together are:

  • Will, contact information (name, address, and phone number) for attorney
  • All insurance policies (life, property, auto, etc.) and contact information for the insurance agent
  • Real estate deeds, title policies, closing statements, mortgages (and records of
    payments), tax receipts for property improvements, leases
  • Stock and bond certificates or receipts; contact information for brokerage
  • Bank account numbers and respective contact information, (include both checking and savings account information)
  • List of assets and outstanding loans
  • Safe deposit key and box number; contact information for the bank
  • State and federal income tax returns for the last three years or more; contact information for tax form preparer
  • Birth certificates for the patient, spouse and any dependents
  • Marriage certificates or proof of divorce
  • Automobile ownership certificate and registration
  • Social security card (or record of S.S. number)
  • Military discharge papers
  • Any contract which the patient is involved in
  • List of assets and outstanding loans
  • Safe deposit key and box number; contact information for the bank
  • State and federal income tax returns for the last three years or more;contact information for tax form preparer
  • Birth certificates for the patient, spouse, and any dependents
  • Marriage certificates or proof of divorce
  • Automobile ownership certificate and registration receipts
  • Social security card (or record S.S. number)
  • Military discharge papers
  • Any contract which the patient is involved in
  • Any business records
  • Receipts, appraisals or evaluation estimates of personal belongings (jewelry, art, antiques, etc.)
  • Funeral or memorial service instructions; contact information for funeral director or memorial society
  • General instructions for spouse and/or children

The above will not be applicable for everyone, but it is a basic checklist of what information it is important to have organized at the time of passing.

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