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  • Writer's pictureCatherine Swan

5 Estate Planning Mistakes with Jean Manifesto

Even though she gave her talk sitting down, Jean Manifesto deserved a standing ovation for “Advanced Care Planning: Navigating the Paperwork” last Thursday at the Heart of Steamboat UMC.  She was clear and direct about the importance of estate planning for all types of families and the ways it can help make people’s lives easier.

Here are five common misconceptions about healthcare documents that she set straight for us in her talk:

Estate planning is not a “one-size-fits-all” type of law that can be done by any attorney.

“You really want a specialist,” Jean emphasized throughout her talk.  “You need a lawyer who can really tease out the dirty laundry.”  Attorneys who are trained in estate planning know how messy family situations can be, and they know the right questions to ask to get the information that’s most important to creating a comprehensive estate plan.

“Be a smart consumer,” Jean said, which means that if you meet with an attorney but don’t know what to ask them, simply ask: “What’s your process?”

An attorney who specializes in wills and trusts will have a defined process that gets you the customized documents you need to make your life and your families’ lives easier.

(Have a question about our process? Ask Jamie:

Estate planning documents can’t be made in an afternoon.

If you go to an attorney, have one meeting, and leave with your documents right away, they’re probably not getting you the customization that you need.  Document templates that are simply filled-in with your family’s information often end up with your loved ones in court, going through probate.

Template-style plans often end up costing your family more than the price of a comprehensive estate plan!

“You really want a customized estate plan done for you,” Jean stressed to the audience.  That’s what you’re paying your attorney for, after all.

Making someone your healthcare agent or appointing them as administrator of your will or trust is not a gift; it’s a serious job, and often a difficult one.

A healthcare agent is the person who enforces decisions expressed in your Living Will or makes decisions for you if you can’t speak for yourself.  Rather than simply appointing the person closest to you, you want to consider other factors:

Do they have the appropriate skills for the job?

Can they be removed enough to make difficult decisions in an uncertain time?

Will you give them authority to override your Living Will?

Making healthcare decisions can often be a stressful job, and it’s a responsibility that a person must take seriously.  Choosing the right person, then, is crucial to seeing your wishes carried out.

Unlike an insurance policy, an estate plan needs to be updated regularly.

The great thing about a customized plan, done with a competent, comprehensive attorney, is that you can make changes to your documents as your life changes.  You are in control of your plan and your care.

Estate plans don’t just live on your shelf, gathering dust.  The documents should be updated regularly to ensure their relevance when they’re needed most.  A good attorney will also keep your documents electronically in various places and help you make them accessible to the right people at the right time.

Even in you have the appropriate documents, there are instances where your wishes may not be followed exactly.

Many of the members of the audience shared personal stories about loved ones and the end-of-life care they received.  There was a significant amount of concern among audience members that even if they expressed their wishes on paper, circumstances would prohibit their documents finding their way into the right hands at the right time.

Jean Manifesto expressed that there are often times when liability prevents medical professionals from carrying out directives, such as Withholding CPR or Do Not Resuscitate.  The best way to ensure your wishes will be honored:

Have consistency and harmony across your documents, with the same wishes expressed on your forms.

Give your documents to the right people.  This includes: your local hospital, your physician, the people mentioned in your plan, and your loved ones.

Talk about your wishes with the people you love.  Be clear about what you want, and tell them openly how you feel about aggressive healthcare.

Use technology!  At Swan Law, we use DocuBank to ensure that our clients have their documents, anywhere in the world, any time of day. DocuBank comes with a card that goes into your wallet, and the documents can be digitally uploaded into an emergency app on your phone.  These technological advances are incredibly helpful in times of accident or emergency, and they are the next-best-thing while we wait for the blockchain to come into effect.

BONUS TIP: Most importantly, everyone needs a comprehensive estate plan!

There are people who think that their situation is easy, or that as long as their spouse is alive, it’s unnecessary.  There are people who think that Colorado probate is simple and that means they don’t need a plan. But ultimately, your plan isn’t about you.

An estate plan is “a complete easing of the burden on your family,” Jean told the audience last Thursday.  “You want to make it as easy as possible for them.”

All families have their dirty details and their messy secrets.  Swan Law is Routt county’s specialist in estate planning and elder law.  Don’t wait.

Contact us today to get started: 970-879-1572 or

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