Thursday, October 23, 2003

More Thoughts on End of Life Issues

I wanted to respond to two of the comments to my post below.

First, Will notes that in Texas, the person named as the guardian in your will is a "suggestion," not anything legally binding. That is only true in the sense that no court ever considers itself obliged to hurt a child just because of a provision in a will. Naming a guardian has a powerful effect. Without naming a guardian, the court decides who will be the best guardian, and any applicant can come forward and make his or her case for why he or she should be chosen. But if there is a guardian named in the will, the court will choose that guardian unless someone can prove that the named guardian should not serve. In other words, alternate choices can't merely argue that they are a better choice, they must first prove that the named guardian is an unacceptable choice. If you've chosen your guardian with care, that would be very, very hard.

Second, Craig makes two common statements about wills and living directives. He asserts that he doesn't need a will because he merely wants everything to go to Colleen. If Colleen is your wife (we haven't met, so I don't know) then that would indeed be the most likely result reached by the probate court after a long and irritating period of probate. A will would allow Colleen to cut through the red tape with less loss of time and money. Probate is less onerous in Texas than in many states, but it's still a pain in the ass. If you have significant assets, a will is even more critical for avoiding red tape and taxation problems. And if Colleen is not your legal spouse -- a problem that (unfortunately) strikes many gay and lesbian partners under the current law -- a will is absolutely necessary. The only people who don't need wills are those who (1) want all of their relatively-insignificant assets to go to their legally recognized spouse, (2) are certain they don't have kids, (3) and who don't care where the money goes if the spouse dies first or simultaneously.

The other comment is that Colleen would be willing to lovingly smother you with a pillow. It's a funny comment, but there's a dark problem under that joke. Here's the difference between having an Advance Directive and not having one: if you have an Advance Directive, a doctor will assist you in peaceably departing this life with a minimum of stress to your loved ones. If you don't, anyone that lovingly takes your life will be prosecuted for murder. Don' t make Colleen serve time in jail just because you couldn't fill out a preprinted form.

 1:48 PM

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