Disposing of real property outside New York

Real property must be disposed of by the laws of the state where it is located. Thus, if a person dies in New York, but also owns property in another state, there will need to be probate proceedings commenced in both places. The “main” probate will be where the deceased resided at the time of death and “ancillary proceedings” will be in other states where real property is located. With court filing fees and other expenses, it can be costly to start probate proceedings in multiple courts.

One technique that can be used to allow the transfer of the property without probate is the use of joint ownership of the property. With joint ownership (not tenants in common), ownership passes upon death. Joint ownership provides for rights of survivorship. Thus, by operation of law, the death of one owner vests full title in the remaining owner(s) without any further action or proceeding. This can be a powerful tool to expedite disposition of real property at death and minimize probate costs and delays. The cost of a deed transfer is almost always a fraction of the cost of probate administration for the property. However, this must be carefully considered, and planned, as there may be issues of loss of ownership control, creditor’s rights, or tax consequences of such transfers. An experienced attorney can help evaluate your individual circumstances and implement the plan that best fits your needs.  

Are you an entrepreneurial personality?

A recent ABA article talked about attorneys as entrepreneurs. The economy and quality of life concerns have both given rise to more attorneys “hanging out a shingle” as more attorneys, either unable to get a job in a firm or were laid off by firms forced to downsize, were drawn to starting up their own practice. The article had one interesting insight about a quality of most entrepreneurs: “Entrepreneurs do not like risk. They seek to minimize risk in pursuit of their idea.” I gave that some pause because we generally think of entrepreneurs as risk-takers, people who throw caution to the wind. However, I work with entrepreneurs every day. They come to me to understand the potential pitfalls and to manage the perceived risk. They are willing to take risk if they see a reward for their effort and they feel there are steps they can take to control or minimize the risk. This is where an attorney can do their best work and provide significant value and return on investment (ROI). An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure.

Are you thinking of starting a business? Do you have what it takes? There are other qualities that most entrepreneurs share. Ask yourself these questions to explore if you have an entrepreneurial streak deep down:

Do you see opportunities or constraints? Entrepreneurs see “probortunities.”

  • Are you optimistic? Tenacious? Entrepreneurs are willing to work hard, even in the face of challenge, because they see a positive outcome in the horizon.
  • Are you comfortable with ambiguity and uncertainty? Do you wake up wondering where the day will take you? Entrepreneurs are flexible and able to react to new situations without panic.
  • Do you like or dislike rules? Entrepreneurs dislike rules, while most people find the presence of rules comforting.
  • When presented with a crazy idea, do you look for value or dismiss it? Do you like to do things the orthodox way, or do you find yourself forging new paths? Do you question why things are done a certain way instead of just doing it that way because everyone else does?
  • Are you passionate about your product or service? If you believe in your mission, failure is not an option.
  • When things go wrong, is your first reaction to find blame or find a solution? Entrepreneurs are fixers, not blamers.

Consider these qualities and see where you stand. If you find yourself lacking in some of these areas, think about ways that you can cultivate them. It may be taking a class, reading a book, or consulting with successful entrepreneurs in your network. Consider it part of your professional development and make it a priority project.

What other qualities do you find in entrepreneurs? How do you find those qualities attributing to (or inhibiting) the success of the business?

8 Puzzle Pieces to Successful Advertising

By Mark Combs, Cre8iveDept.com

Aren’t you tired of the money you spend on advertising going out the window and never seeing it return with sales? What are the pieces that solve this advertising puzzle? Well, there are 8 puzzle pieces that make a great advertisement, let’s take a look.

  1. Audience – Who are you selling to? What problems do they have that you can solve? Sit down and write out 10 characteristics of your “perfect customer”. Write down their age, gender, profession, income, method of travel, hobbies, etc. In essence draw a mental picture of who you are speaking to. Remember, “everyone” is not a target market.
  2. Solution – What solutions do you offer to this “perfect customer”? Look at the list you just made, and write down 3 to 5 needs or problems that you can solve for them.  Rank them in order of biggest need to smallest. Decide which of these needs you want to focus on for this ad. It might be the one need you serve the best, or one that you want to serve more. Solve one problem for one customer in one ad.
  3. Message – You know who your perfect customer is, you know what problems they have that you serve best, now craft a message that speaks directly to that narrow niche.  Your message should identify the audience and the need as well as provide the solution.  Once you have this message polished, repeat it every time you advertise this solution. Create 10 ways to say the same message and use them over and over.
  4. Headline – Your headline is the stop sign in the brain of your perfect customer. Write a headline that will get their attention and support your message. It needs to grab their attention and make them want to read more. Rewrite it until you get it under 7 words. The fewer words you use the better, but make sure you keep supporting your message.
  5. Image – More and more we are becoming a visual society, so the image you pick for this ad needs to be a good one. I understand a tight budget, but there are plenty of online stock photo sites that you can get high quality photos for around $10. The impact a good photo makes is well worth the investment. Again make sure it supports your message and relates to your perfect customer.
  6. Sub-Head – The sub-head is like a secondary headline, it explains the headline more and entices the reader to read further.  You can use it to answer the question in the headline, but be sure the sub-head gives a bit more information and points the reader to the copy.
  7. Copy – This is it. Now is the time for that message to come through. You stopped them with a great headline, they relate to the image you picked, they are ready for your message. Write the copy of the ad so that it speaks directly to the need of the perfect customer. They really don’t care about who you are, or your history in the industry. They care about solving their problem, meeting their own needs.
  8. Call to Action – The whole point of you spending time and money on this advertisement is to get your perfect customer to take some sort of action. Hopefully this action includes them paying you for a solution to their problem. The action you call them to can be anything, visit a website, look for your product in the store, request more information or to contacted. Without a Call to Action your advertising is wasted. You can have all the other pieces to this puzzle and forget the Call to Action and your ad will not succeed.

It isn’t required to use every puzzle piece to have a successful ad, but you must use the corner pieces. You must know your perfect customer, give them a solution to their problem, have a message that speaks to them, and you must give them some action to take. If you follow these guidelines your advertising dollars will come back to you with friends.

If you need help with this advertising puzzle let us know at MarkCombs@Cre8iveDept.com, we would be glad to help.

8 Ways Companies Waste Advertising Dollars

By Mark Combs, Cre8iveDept.com

I understand, running a business is tough. Tons to do. Even more to think about. But, have you thought about how you are wasting those precious few advertising dollars? We see money wasted everyday in advertising, here are some of the most common ways:

1)    Inconsistency – Roller-coaster advertising is not as fun as it sounds. Roller-coaster advertising is when companies don’t stay in front of their customers. Business slows down so the company responds by doing some advertising. They soon get busy and the attention gets directed to serving the recent influx of business. Soon, that new business is starting to wane, and its time to ramp up the ad machine again. If you will consistently advertise to your perfect customer your roller-coaster will level out and you can ride that train to the bank.

2)    “Me Too” Advertising – Do you remember the “Got Milk?” campaign? Of course you do. Its one of the best campaigns of the 90’s. Do you remember all the knockoff campaigns that it spawned. T-shirts, billboards,  magazine ads everywhere had “Got _______?” in that nice narrow font. Do you remember any of the companies that did the knockoffs? I didn’t think so. “Me Too!”  advertising is jumping on a band wagon of a concept or tactic that works. Unfortunately, the “me too”ers seldom see the same returns. Be original, set the bar and let everyone else say “Me Too!” to your advertising.

3)    Shotgun Advertising – This spray and pray method of advertising to EVERYONE is costly and not very profitable. It gets expensive trying to flood the marketplace with your message in hopes of hitting the perfect customer. Every time your message lands on the wrong customer you waste money. You may wonder why “the big boys” use so much of the mass market advertising, its because they can afford to. But in recent years they are learning that targeting specific customers that are ideally compatible with their message is paying off more than hitting everyone with the same ad.

4)    Wrong Vehicle – Using mass transit advertising to market a kitchen utensil to stay at home moms doesn’t sound like a good Idea, right? It’s not. Stay at home moms are called that for a reason. They stay at home. They don’t use mass transit very often. So why do companies use advertising vehicles that won’t reach their perfect customer? Choose the advertising vehicle that best fits the needs of that one customer that your product speaks directly to. Its kind of like using a tank to go water skiing, it might pull you but it won’t work that well.

5)    Wrong Customer – Have you tried to sell tractors to a stock broker? It ain’t easy. Choosing the right customer is half of the battle in advertising. Many companies say our target market is the whole world. That is a bit of a contradiction. Take an inventory of what needs your product or service fills. Look at what customers have the demographic and psychographic qualities that fit your product offer. Then work to craft a message that speaks directly to them and their needs. They are the right customer, speak to them.

6)    Too Big – Every year a few companies spend millions on a single 30 second spot during the super bowl. If you remember the DotCom boom the Super Bowl broadcast was filled with quirky sometimes weird ads that “promoted” a website. A few years later, 90% of those companies were no where to be found. Would that money been better used in a consistent, targeted, custom message to the right customer? Guaranteed. Would they still be in business today? No way to know. My advice, don’t spend advertising dollars on placement that is beyond your reach. Especially if your haven’t tested the message. Think Big, Work Small.

7)    Too Small – Money is tight. I get it. But, try to push yourself to the next level when it comes to your ad budget. I know it sounds weird after the last point. But I said the “next” level not the next stratosphere. If you wish to reach your perfect customer, they have to know you exist. You must let them know what you offer and how it meets their needs. Test your message as cheaply as you can. When you find a message that works, go big. Take a few risks,  step out of your comfort zone. To get something different, you must do something different.

8)    Poor Brand – What is your brand? Your brand is your look, your message, your value, your overall marketing message. Do you have a strong brand? Can you convey your message in 2 sentences? Do you speak to your Perfect Customer with every market touch point? Do the answers to these questions evade you? That probably means your brand isn’t as strong as it should be. Branding is probably the most important part of advertising. Invest in your brand, it pays dividends.

If you can avoid these few mistakes, your advertising can be the life-blood of your business. If you fear making an advertising mistake, send us an email at info@Cre8iveDept.com we be glad to help you through it.

8 Ways to Perfect Your Message

By Mark Combs, Cre8iveDept.com

With every ad, brochure or email you send, you should be conveying, restating, or polishing your message. Yes! You, in the back, what was the question? What is your message? Good question. Your message is the answer to this question, “Why should I give you my money instead of doing nothing, or using your competitor?” Your message should be a concise statement that gives your perfect customer a reason to buy from you. Sure. One more question. What is the perfect message? I am glad you asked. Each company’s message is unique and should stand alone in their chosen market, but there are some thing you can do to perfect your message. Let’s go over them.

  1. Target it

Your message should speak directly to your perfect customer. You can’t convey a single message to everyone, you will not be able to speak to anyone and you will go broke trying to do it. Narrow the focus of your message to the single customer that will benefit the most from what you offer. Then write your message to speak directly to the problem they need solved, or the pain they are dealing with. You WILL get their attention and they will be hungry for your answer to their problem.

  1. Simplify it

Simplify your message to as short a statement as possible. Try to give position your company is taking, specifics of your offer, and some sort of guarantee. Take FedEx, “Where it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”, that is a great message. It’s short, it stakes out a position, gives specifics and implies a guarantee. They are taking the position of you can count on us for your overnight packages. They give us enough details that we know they ship things, and the “absolutely, positively” implies a guarantee of service.  Please note that this is not a slogan, it is their message, but it is so well crafted that it doubles as a slogan.

  1. Repeat it

Once you have a targeted, simple message, the task now is to repeat it as often as possible. It should be on every thing you do, ads, signs, every where. It is possible to over do it but it should make an appearance some how in every marketing effort. Plus, repeat it internally. Make sure your employees know it by heart so that in their daily work, they can remember it and live up to it daily. Every employee should be able to recall your message because EVERYONE in your company is in the marketing department regardless of their job title.

  1. Demonstrate it

Let your current customers say your message. How have you delivered in the past? Tell your perfect customer a story about how you gave another customer the best your company offers. Testimonials carry a lot of weight with those that don’t know you yet. They notice when someone says, “I know and trust the XYZ company with all of my widget repair. The results were amazing.” Ask your current customers for reviews and testimonials and then let them speak your message for you.  It works.

  1. Own it

Your message needs to be unique. No one else can say “Where it absolutely, positively has to be there overnight”, that is owned by FedEx. Be sure not to use cliché phrases like “world’s best widget”. No one really believes that, and therefore can’t really take you seriously. Create a message that is yours and yours alone.

You must change your message from a marketing tool into a business principle, a company bi-law, a corporate creed. Transform it from a slogan to a way of business. When your message starts to ooze out of your corporate pores, you will own your message. It needs to be the very fiber of your company.  Your company needs to eat, breathe and sleep the essence of your message. This is good reason to take writing your message seriously. If you are going to own your message, it needs to be one you can breathe every day.

  1. Re-word it

Take an afternoon, pull someone from each department of your company and see how many ways you can re-word your message. Break out the thesaurus, the dictionary, and even the scrabble board if you have to. Wordsmith at least 10 ways to say your message to your perfect customer. Look at it from different angles, and different perspectives, but make sure in every case you are conveying the same position, the same details, and the same promise. This exercise will give you a ell to draw from in your ad copy and your sales copy. Your job is not to say one thousand things once, it is to say the same thing one thousand ways without being redundant. Find new ways to convey your message to your perfect customer.

  1. Deliver it

So your message is on all of  your marketing materials, good job.  Now you have to deliver on the promise you have made. Make every effort at every customer encounter to make your message ring true in your business. Your message should be easy to see in your business. Show your perfect customer that you mean business and that business is your message.

  1. Leave it (alone)

Once you have crafted your message and you have landed on the foundation of your marketing verbiage, don’t mess with it. You can say it many ways but never leave your message. Your message that speaks directly to your perfect customer is not something that comes easily and should not be changed easily. You should liken the changing of your message to that of amending the Constitution. It’s a BIG DEAL. If you decide to change your message, I would suggest going through this process again to make sure you are targeting the right customer and speaking to their needs.

If you ever need help with your message or any other part of your marketing, feel free to send us an email at info@Cre8iveDept.com we be glad to help you through it.

8 Trade Show Mistakes That Cost Exhibitors

By Mark Combs, Cre8iveDept.com

What do you invest in your trade show? There are booth cost, training, shipping to the show, giveaways, promotions, and then there’s time lost in all the prep work. So why do we keep getting in our own way?
Check out these 8 mistakes we see exhibitors make at every show:
1) Poor, inconsistent graphics – We have all seen them, the booth with a pitiful patchwork of graphics and improvised “display” to represent their company. Their corporate image is less than professional and I would lay money on the fact that these “money saving” efforts are actually costing the company more than they are saving. A poor corporate image doesn’t give your prospects any confidence in your professionalism, your product or your offer. The only thing it will give your prospects is a reason to find your competitors. My advise, find a professional to manage your trade show display graphics.
2) Weak promotions before the show – Your booth is looking great. Awesome graphics, corresponding marketing materials, and great products. So where is everyone? Where is all the traffic the trade show promoter promised? Well, who did you tell about the show? Who did you invite to the booth? What special promotions did you advertise for show attendees? Start telling both customers and prospects about the show and your booth with your social media and your e-newsletter. Build anticipation by launching a new product at the show. Send invitations to lost contacts and prospects for special show events. Most of the show successes we have seen are made before the show floor opens.
3) Poor staff training – What do your booth visitors see when they walk up? Are your staffers sitting down? Are they blocking the entrances to your booth? Are they engaged in their own little conversations, while ignoring prospects? Set your expectations before the show with some good trade show training. Don’t assume that just because they are professional sales people that they are great show staff. Set some rules, make sure your staff knows them, and enforce them. I will post a article on some good general show staff rules soon.
4) Poor listening skills – Avoid “salesperson overtalk”. You know the guy. So intent (or desperate) to make the sale, he dives into his pitch without ever listening to the prospect. DON’T BE THAT GUY! Listen to the prospects needs, ask about their job or business, find some common ground, be aware of body language. But most of all, LISTEN! Most people like to talk about themselves. Let them. It’s amazing what you can learn if your mouth isn’t moving.
5) Poor Lead Generation – I’m sorry a fish bowl isn’t gonna cut it. Do you think a give away that anyone can enter gives you qualified leads? Think again. Know your Perfect Customer, know their needs, then speak to those needs. Your prospects will qualify themselves. You also might offer a free phone consultation or training that requires some hurdle to jump over. You will weed out the customers that aren’t your Perfect Customer and take home a pocket full of qualified leads.

P.S. Keep your display simple. You only have seconds to stop your prospects in the isle, too much text and information on your display will let them keep walking.

6) Having too much information – Too Much Information? Is there such a thing? Yes. When you consider that about 80% of all marketing materials handed out at any given trade show ends up in the hotel room garbage can, you can have too much information. Instead take a laminated “Show Sample” of your brochure or sales sheet. Gladly show your prospect, go over the bullet points, ask questions, and don’t forget to listen. When the prospect asks for a copy of your brochure, tell them it’s the only one you have but you can mail them one or send them an email with all the information after the show (or during the show). This gives you 3 great advantages: No extra printing/shipping charges for the materials, Names and addresses of warm prospects, and a great excuse to call or write them after the show. The benefit for your prospects are: less to carry around the show, great information delivered to them, great personal service from you. WIN! WIN!
7) Poor Trade Show Tracking – Trade shows are a marketing function, correct? If you don’t track marketing it becomes expensive sales training. Create ways to track every trade show sale. Use your databases, advertising, promotions, giveaways, fliers, business cards to track show sales. This gives you vital information to justify the trade show or make changes to make it more profitable. There are tons of ways to track your promotions, get creative and see your ROI come to life.
8 ) Post show glow – The show is over you made some great sales and good leads. Those customers should be rolling in any moment now. Not so fast. Your work isn’t done because the show is. It seems like common sense, but common sense isn’t all that common. Did you know only 20% of exhibitors make contact after the show and only 10% of those make contact in a personal way. Send hand written thank you notes within the first week after the show. I used this one technique while marketing manager at a local company and tripled their after show sales. The owner came to me asking what my secret was, and didn’t believe me when I told him. The next show I only sent half of our attendees the notes, and guess which half had more sales. Yep. the ones who got the notes. It’s not hard to do and it makes a huge difference on post show conversions.
Learning from common mistakes is the best way to insulate yourself from trade show failures. I realize there is no such thing as a perfect show, but these 8 tips will get you much closer to a profitable show.
What mistakes have you made or seen at the trade shows you’ve been to? Share them wit us in the comments below. I will respond with cre8ive ways to remedy those mistakes as the comments come in.

If you need help with your tradeshow let us know at MarkCombs@Cre8iveDept.com, we would be glad to help.

Where do I file my d/b/a?

If you own a business and are using a trade name (doing business under an assumed name, commonly known as “d/b/a” or sole proprietorship) or if you are conducting business as partners, New York General Business Law Section 130 requires you to file for a Certificate of Assumed Name.

If you have a sole proprietorship or partnership and need to file for a Certificate of Assumed Name, you must file for a certificate in each county in which the business is conducted or transacted. You must provide the trade name, the name(s) of the person(s) conducting the business, along with the residence address and age of any person less than eighteen years of age.

However, if the company that uses the trade name is a corporation, limited partnership or limited liability company, you must file for the Certificate of Assumed Name with the New York Department of State. The forms for this can be found at the NYDOS website at http://www.dos.ny.gov/corps/index.html.

Special considerations for your Living Will and Health Care Proxy

New York is one of two states that do not recognize the authority of family members to make decisions for incapacitated adults. The only way to ensure that your medical preferences are enforced when you are unable to express them yourself is by appointing an agent – your health care proxy – to inform doctors and other health care providers of your wishes.

In New York State, health care providers are not permitted to withhold life-sustaining treatment unless there is clear and convincing evidence (outlined in your living will) that you prefer otherwise. Without a health care proxy, your doctor may be required to provide you with medical treatment that you would have refused if you were able to do so. For example, if you were in a coma or vegetative state with no hope of recovery, or if you were terminally ill, the doctor may still be required to provide “heroic” measures to sustain your life, such as with respirators, feeding tubes and other treatments. A health care proxy lets YOU make your own medical decisions, rather than to leave them to doctors, lawyers and health care professionals who likely don’t know you and your wishes. Your living will provides clear guidelines of the medical decisions you would make were you able to do so.

If you become too sick to make health care decisions, someone else must decide for you. When a patient is too sick to speak or express his own desires about medical treatment, the family and doctors may be in the difficult position of guessing – and even disagreeing about – what treatment the sick person would have wanted. Feelings about these issues involve deeply held spiritual, medical and often religious, beliefs. Many times family members cannot agree and the decision can tear apart a family. At a time of tragedy and crisis, families need to support one another, not feud over emotional and painful decisions. Combining a living will with a health-care proxy is the best way to present “clear and convincing evidence” about the patient’s decisions.

The New York Health Care Proxy Law allows you to appoint someone you trust – for example, a family member or close friend – to decide about treatment if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. You can do this by using a Health Care Proxy to appoint your “health care agent.” Unlike a power of attorney for financial matters, only one can be acting at a time (no co-agents acting together) but you can have alternates. A living will is a document that provides specific instructions about health care treatment. The health care proxy does not give you agent the power to make non-health care decisions for you (ex. financial decisions).

You can give the person you select as little or as much authority as you want. You can allow your health care agent to decide about all health care or only about certain treatments. You may also give your agent instructions that he or she has to follow. Your agent can then make sure that health care professionals follow your wishes and can decide how your wishes apply as your medical condition changes. Hospitals, doctors and other health care providers must follow your agent’s decisions as if they were your own.

Because artificial hydration and nutrition decisions cannot be made by your agent unless he/she has specific knowledge of your wishes, a living will helps establish the necessary “clear and convincing evidence” necessary to withhold these life sustaining treatments. Your views on this subject can be expressed orally and still be effective, however, it is certainly much better to put them in writing. You may wish to talk first with your doctor, religious advisor, family or other people before giving instructions to your agent.

Common misconceptions about spousal inheritance

One thing I am passionate about is dispelling common misconceptions about estate planning. I believe it is really important to have your affairs in order so that when you pass, your loved ones are taken care of and they do not have to be overburdened with making arrangements during the emotional turmoil of mourning your passing.

It always surprises me how many people have not taken the time to properly plan their estate, mostly because they incorrectly assume that when they die, everything goes to the spouse. This is actually not the case. If you die without a will (called ‘intestate’), a portion of your estate goes to your spouse and a portion goes to your children. For example, if the house where you and your family live is in your name and you pass away (and you do not have a will in place), by default the house will become jointly owned by your wife and children as tenant in common (no rights of survivorship).

While this sounds okay to a lot of people, it may render the spouse incapable of accessing the assets needed to take care of the family, for example, getting a home equity loan or selling the home or business when someone passes. There will be issues as to which things are part of the estate and which things are owned jointly with rights of survivorship (passing outside the terms of the will or intestate estate) – joint bank accounts and houses owned jointly by a husband and wife are common examples. The spouse cannot be disinherited, so there is a right that can be asserted by the surviving spouse to take a minimum portion of the estate before anything goes to children or others.

Setting up your estate is crucial if you want to ensure that your family is able to make use of the property that you pass down to them. Your attorney can help you prepare the right documents to accomplish your goals.

Estate Planning: Living Will & Health Care Proxy

It is important to consider what kinds of medical treatment you would want or not want if you should become unable to make health care decisions for yourself. Combining a living will with a health care proxy is the best way to present “clear and convincing evidence” about your decisions.

A living will is a document that provides specific instructions about health care treatment. In a living will, you declare your wishes to accept or refuse life-sustaining treatment under certain circumstances. The living will often expresses general principles, such as the preference that treatment should be withheld if it would artificially prolong life. Other living wills list the specific kinds of treatment that are or are not acceptable, such as renal dialysis, chemotherapy, “do not resuscitate” orders or artificial nutrition and hydration (tube feeding).

Issues you should cover:

  • artificial hydration and nutrition
  • cardiac resuscitation and DNR orders
  • mechanical respiration
  • antibiotics
  • pain medication
  • AVOID ambiguous terms like “heroic measures” or “extraordinary treatments”

The health care proxy allows you to choose someone you trust to make medical treatment decisions on your behalf. With a health care proxy, your health care agent can interpret your wishes as medical circumstances change and can make decisions you could not have known would have to be made. You should limit the instructions you provide in the health care proxy itself – detailed instructions might unintentionally limit your agent’s ability to act in your best interest.

You can revoke your proxy or appoint a different one at any time by destroying the document and/or executing new one. You should notify your agent, doctor, lawyer, family and anyone else you gave a copy orally and in writing of your change or revocation.

Things to consider when choosing a health care agent:

Is your potential agent

  • able to separate his/her own feelings form your own, respect your wishes even if they are different from what they used to be or if he/she thinks they are unusual or foolish?
  • close by and willing/able to come now and in the future?
  • willing to talk about your sensitive wishes and impending death; stay with you even when the going gets rough; allow you to talk about unfinished business, ask for forgiveness, offer apologies, share fears and sorrows?
  • willing and able to work with health care providers?
  • willing and able to handle potential conflict between family and friends?
  • able to care for him/herself so that he/she is not drained by your illness?
  • willing and able to handle responsibility, seek out information about your illness and what to expect?
  • willing to acquaint him/herself with the social norms of your culture and religion?

Although the living will and health care proxy are separate legal documents and you do not need both documents, it is recommended that you consider completing both. Each document serves a specific purpose that together help provide clear and convincing evidence for a designated individual to carry out your preferred medical decisions.

Keep in mind that your health care proxy does not need to be the same person as the person to whom you give power of attorney or name the executor of your will. You can choose separate agents for each function. In fact, it is common that one person is appointed to take care of legal and financial affairs while a different person is appointed for health care decisions. You should consider the circumstances (financial, time, emotional and geographic) and their ability to carry out your wishes.

Common terms:

  • The health care agent is the person you elect to make decisions about medical treatment when you are not able to do so.
  • Advance health care directives and durable powers of attorney for health care are other common terms that refer to living wills and health care proxies.

Objectives/Goals of the Living Will and Health Care Proxy:

  • Identify and document your health care directives so your loved ones can carry out your wishes.
  • Prevent your family from the often overwhelming burden of medical bills for treatments you do not want.
  • Enable your family to make arrangements for medical treatment you may need (ex. home care, physical therapy, dialysis, HIPPA authorization).
  • Enable your family to communication with insurance companies (HIPPA authorization).
  • Identify who you would like to bear the responsibility of communicating your wishes or making medical decisions if you can no longer do so.
  • Document clearly your wishes concerning artificial nutrition/hydration, mechanical respiration and organ donation.