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Learn from Gawande: Hope is not a plan

Atul Gawande’s book Being Mortal has made many waves across the medical profession and has important implications for estate planning.

Gawande is a practicing surgeon and acclaimed writer who audaciously tackled the immense issue of how the healthcare system has failed to help aging people and their families prepare for the future.

In this post, we will pick up on one of the key threads in Gawande’s book: Hope is not a plan.

Gawande describes how medical professionals are often unable or unwilling to talk honestly with elderly patients about what lies ahead. And what lies ahead as time passes, even for the healthiest of us, is decline and death.

When doctors refuse to help patients face this, things can get vastly worse, with expensive interventions that can inflict unbelievable pain.

To be sure, modern medicine sometimes works wonders and hope for the future is a powerful factor in living well.

But sometimes doctors encourage patients to cling to hope even when preparing for the end in a hospice setting would do far more for the well-being of all concerned.

Let’s repeat it again: Hope is not a plan.

This is also effective estate planning comes in. A skilled estate planning attorney can help guide families toward the conversations needed to help aging people make appropriate choices based on age and health.

For medical care, what type of interventions, if any, do you want? And who do you want to make decisions about this for you if you become unable to do so?

There are also conversations to be had about other important matters, such as managing day-to-day finances, finding appropriate living arrangements and executing desired ways to transfer family wealth.

In short, if you haven’t had those conversations yet, be prepared to have them when you sense the need. Because as much as you hope for the best, hope is not a plan.

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