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  • InsideTrack
  • April 03, 2019

    End-of-Life Planning: Free Guide Starts the Conversation

    Don't keep your loved ones in the dark about your end-of-life wishes. From April 3 to 19, the State Bar is offering a free download of A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs, an end-of-life planning guide.
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    April 3, 2019 – An estimated 80 percent of Wisconsin residents have not completed an advance directive documenting their preferences about issues surrounding end-of-life decisions.

    Are you one of the 80 percent? You have ideas about what you would like to happen regarding end-of-life planning and health care decisions for yourself. But do your family members kno​w your wishes? Are your clients prepared?

    Starting the conversation may be difficult. The State Bar of Wisconsin offers a guide to help.

    From April 3 to 19, the State Bar is offering a free download of A Gift to Your Family: Planning Ahead for Future Health Needs, an end-of-life planning guide.

    Under Wisconsin law, competent adults have the right to control decisions about their future medical care, including the right to accept or refuse treatment, and the right to be an organ​ and tissue donor.

    A Gift to Your Family offers practical insights on a range of issues surrounding end-of-life decisions, such as power of attorney for health care, living wills, and organ and tissue donation. The guide also includes state forms to help people put their wishes in writing.

    The State Bar is offering this guide at no cost in honor of April 16, 2019, National Healthcare Decisions Day, the annual initiative that serves as a reminder to plan ahead so you don’t keep loved ones in the dark about your end-of-life wishes. Use this event to talk to your family and clients about their needs as well.

    Planning Guide Available Free April 3-19

    Wisconsin is participating in the annual initiative, and with Gov. Tony Evers' proclamation, the State Bar of Wisconsin offers members and the public free access to its new end-of-life planning tool.

    “Due to accidents or illness, three out of four people will be unable to make some or all of their medical decisions at the end of life,” said attorney Ben Adams, advisor to the State Bar Elder Law Section. “If this happens to you, doctors need to know who can make decisions for you.”

    Adams said that a medical decision-maker needs to have some idea of who the patient is and what his or her values are in order to make decisions on the patient’s behalf.

    “If you haven’t named someone in a health care power of attorney document and you become incapacitated or incompetent, then it’s likely that a court proceeding will be needed to appoint a medical decision maker for you,” Adams said. “But the court process can be avoided in most cases if you do advanced care planning.”

    The State Bar has distributed more than 500,000 print planning guides to hospitals, clinics, lawyers, and the public. The 24-page A Gift to Your Family, now in its eighth printing, initially was produced in 2000 through a partnership with the Wisconsin Hospital Association, the Wisconsin Medical Society, and Gunderson Lutheran Medical Center. The State Bar Communications Committee later partnered with the Wisconsin Hispanic Lawyers Association to make the guide available in Spanish.

    How to Order A Gift to Your Family in Print

    To order the print guide for family, friends, or clients, visit’s Marketplace for the guide in English or in Spanish. The cost is $4 for State Bar members; discounts are available for larger quantities.

    Your Questions Answered – Live on Wisconsin Public Radio

    You have an opportunity to hear more about end-of-life planning when elder law attorney Ben Adams, of Adams & Woodrow S.C., Neenah, appears on Wisconsin Public Radio’s (WPR) Larry Meiller Show from 11:45 a.m. – 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, April 9. Adams will be joined this year by Ellen Koski, executive director of the Fox Valley Advance Care Planning Partnership in Appleton.

    Join Larry, Ben, and Ellen to hear tips and a discussion – and even to have your own questions answered on the air. Listen live on WPR's Ideas Network stations or on the WPR website.

    If you miss the broadcast, you can find it on the Larry Meiller Show Archives.


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