No one likes to think about death and dying. But at some point, we’ll all face our loved ones’ mortality as well as our own. And too frequently, people’s reluctance to discuss end-of-life issues leaves families scrambling at the hospital or nursing home, trying to guess their loved one’s final wishes.

At Phillips & Santana, we help see that our clients’ end-of-life transitions go smoothly and make sure they can live their last days on their terms. Keep reading to learn why advance care planning should be part of your estate plan and how an attorney can help you create an end-of-life plan that works for you.

What Is Advance Care Planning?

Advance care planning helps direct your medical care if you become incapacitated and can’t make your own decisions about medical treatment. Depending on your circumstances, your advance care plan might involve a series of documents, including the following:

  • Healthcare Power of Attorney
    A health care power of attorney is a legally enforceable document that appoints a patient advocate to manage your health care decisions. (In addition to a healthcare power of attorney, you can also create powers of attorney that let someone manage your finances or business while you’re incapacitated. Sometimes people confuse these different powers of attorney, but they’re not the same.)
  • Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Order
    A DNR order allows medical professionals to withhold or stop life-reviving treatment such as CPR or defibrillation.
  • Asset Protection Trust
    Your estate plan should consider how you’ll fund long-term care. An asset protection trust can help reduce or eliminate your Medicaid spend-down, which is the amount that you’ll have to pay before Medicaid begins to provide benefits

Together, these documents make up your end-of-life plan.

Reflect on Your End-of-Life Priorities and Wishes

Before you create your end-of-life plan, take some time to think about your goals and values. Everyone has a different perspective on end-of-life care, and you need to think about your circumstances and then set clear priorities.

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You might ask yourself questions like:

  • What medical conditions do I have, and what are the common complications for these conditions?
  • Do I need additional information from my doctors about my medical conditions, family history, and prognosis?
  • What types of treatment do I want to receive?
  • Are there specific treatments that I do not want?
  • How much do I value quantity versus quality of life?
  • What is my stance on life support and resuscitation?
  • How will I fund my end-of-life care?
  • Who would I trust to make my end-of-life decisions for me?
  • How much flexibility do I want to give my healthcare decisionmaker?

Remember, for most of us, dying isn’t a simple or quick process. 52% of people will need long-term nursing care during their lifetimes, and the average person needs two years of care before they die.

Create an Estate Plan That Empowers and Directs Your Loved Ones

Once you understand your needs and goals, it’s time to document them. An estate planning attorney can help you create a series of documents that designate your patient advocate, outline your treatment preferences, and allocate funding for your care. You might also want to help plan your funeral and memorial services, and your estate plan can accomplish this, too.

During this process, it’s a good idea to outline your wishes as thoroughly and specifically as possible. For example, a request to “do everything possible to extend my life and ease my suffering” is vague and may not help a loved one who’s making a difficult medical decision on your behalf. Would your advocate know whether you want to extend your life for only a short while if it would involve a painful or unpleasant surgery? Your loved ones need to know what you think about situations like this so they can make informed choices on your behalf.

Discuss Your End-of-Life Plan with Your Loved Ones

Once you’ve created your end-of-life plan, you should talk about it with your loved ones. At a minimum, you’ll need your patient advocate to accept their appointment and sign part of your health care power of attorney document. Until they sign and accept the appointment, your power of attorney is not enforceable.

Your conversations about your end-of-life goals should extend beyond your patient advocate, however. A candid discussion about your views on end-of-life care will help your family implement them during a health emergency. In an urgent medical situation, there may not be time to find and consult your estate plan. However, if your loved ones understand your plan for advance care, they can make decisions that reflect your wishes even in the most hectic of circumstances.

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At Phillips & Santana, we use our experience to guide our clients and their families through these conversations, which are often emotionally charged. Contact us today to get more information about our approach to end-of-life planning and find out how we can help you.

Schedule a Time to Reassess Your End-of-Life Plan

Our views, priorities, and values tend to change throughout our lives, even during our later years. That’s why it’s always a good idea to schedule a follow-up review of your end-of-life plan every few years. If your preferences or circumstances have changed, your lawyer can help modify your plan to reflect your wishes.

At Phillips & Santana, we value long-term relationships with our clients. We know that estate plans and end-of-life plans will change as your family, health, and philosophy evolve. If it’s been a while since you reviewed your estate plan, we’d love to help you evaluate it.

Law Offices of Kari Santana: Practical End-of-Life Planning Services for West Michigan Individuals and Families

If you’re ready to create an estate plan that addresses end-of-life care and other important issues, contact the Law Offices of Kari Santana today. We help clients build comprehensive estate plans at affordable rates. Simply complete our online form or call us at 616-717-5759 to schedule your free, no-risk consultation.


Nguyen, V. (2017, March). Long-term support and services (Fact sheet 27R). Washington, D.C.: AARP Public Policy Institute. Retrieved from

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.