Tag Archives: Wisconsin

On Earth Day We asked… Can Estate Planning be Eco-Friendly?

My husband and I try to instill in our children a love for nature.  This photo is of our middle daughter, Amelia, as we hiked through Johnson Park in Racine last fall.  Living in such a beautiful part of the world, it’s easy to spend hours outside with loved ones. We take the kids hiking and camping whenever we have a spare moment. 

Not only do we get to experience nature, but we also unplug and experience each other without interruption.

Attorney Mason and her daughter hiking on Earth Day in Racine County
Attorney Mason and her daughter, Amelia hiking in Racine County Wisconsin

As we consider Earth Day, we are proud that our love for nature is being passed on to our children.  I am also proud to extend this ethos beyond our families weekend adventures. It has become a fundamental part of my firm’s estate planning practice.

Have you considered a green burial?

We routinely ask our clients if they have considered a green burial.  A “green burial” is an Eco-friendly approach to burial. Traditional burial method fills your body with a formaldehyde solution and encases your body in a casket. Caskets are often not bio degradable.

During a green burial, your body is not embalmed. You are buried in a container that is 100 percent bio degradable.  Sometimes no casket at all. The body is wrapped in a cloth.  Did you know you can also choose to be buried with a tree sapling? This metaphorically and actually allows your body to become the tree.

What else can be done on Earth Day?

We also found ways to cut waste by offering a “paper-lite” estate plan. With the help of newer tech and our fantastic millennial staff, we have a secure portal. The secure portal allows us to share drafts and obtain client feedback without using paper.  Our clients can also securely access their estate plan from literally anywhere in the world (as long as there is internet access). 

In Wisconsin, the final Estate Plan needs to be signed to comply with state law.  But digitizing large portions of the estate planning process can significantly reduce the use of paper and our impact on the earth. While at the same time improving the process.

We know these efforts are not huge changes. But each small change we make adds up.


Earth Day & Estate Planning Resources:

The Green Burial Council: https://www.greenburialcouncil.org


The Biodegradable burial pod that turns your body into a tree:
https://www.cnn.com/2017/05/03/world/eco-solutions-capsula-mundi/index.html


It’s National Healthcare Decision week!

April 16th kicks off National Healthcare Decision week.  Now is the time to commit to yourself and your loved ones that you will have that difficult conversation about medical interventions you want and don’t want when you are unable to make decisions on your own.  Perhaps because you are at the end stages of a terminal illness.  Maybe you are in a coma following an accident and likely to recover. 

Through your Health Care Power of Attorney, you designate someone to make decisions when you are unable to do so.  But your agent needs your guidance.  Having a conversation will give your agent peace of mind when tough decisions need to be made. 

We always recommend having a discussion about general desires and some specific situations that could arise.  We also know it is a tough conversation. But it is a meaningful conversation. Additionally you will learn a lot about yourself.  You will also walk away from the conversation with a deeper bond with your loved ones.

Here are a few questions to begin the discussion:

  1. Would you want your health care agent to take into account the effect (financial, emotional) your treatment has on family?
  2. Do you have a strong preference to die at home if it is at all possible?
  3. If you could plan it today, what would the last day or week of your life be like? Where would you be? Who would be present? What would you be doing? What would you eat if you could eat? How about your final words or last acts?
  4. Are there medical treatments you fear?  Does it relate to the possibility of pain? Loss of dignity while undergoing the treatment? Being alone? Being overly-sedated or in a lingering state of unconsciousness?
  5. Imagine that you have Alzheimer’s disease and it progressed to the point where you cannot recognize or converse with your loved ones. When spoon-feeding is no longer possible, would you want to be fed by a feeding tube?  So would you want other life-sustaining treatments that might prolong your life? For how long?
  6. Imagine you are seriously ill, doctors are recommending a course of treatment that usually has very severe side effects, such as pain, nausea, vomiting, and weakness that could last for months.  Would your willingness to endure the side effects depend on the likelihood of regaining your health?  What if there is a 1% chance?  20%? 50%? 75%?  Does your answer change if you are likely to regain your health for only another 6 months to a year?
  7. If you were near the end stages of a terminal illness with a condition that caused much pain, would you want to be sedated, even to the point of unconsciousness? Or would you want to be awake to be with your loved ones even if it meant experiencing a significant amount of pain?
  8. Imagine you have dementia causing confusion. So only half the time, you recognize and interact with friends and loved ones on a simple level. You also have circulatory problems, which resulted in one leg being amputated because it developed gangrene. Now, the other leg develops gangrene and the doctor recommends amputation because the condition could be fatal. So would you want the operation?

Have the conversation.


Rebecca Mason and her team are extremely professional – a true pleasure to work with. They ask questions you haven’t thought of and are proactive and thoughtful in their approach to helping you get your plan finalized.

Kimberly K. – Customer Satisfaction Survey – 4/2019

Share your views so that your loved ones and your medical team will know what care and services you prefer, and what treatment you would refuse, in the event that you are unable to communicate your wishes.

National Healthcare Decisions Week Resources:


Wisbar – Healthcare Decisions Day is April 16: Download End-of-Life Planning Guide and Start That Conversation:

https://www.wisbar.org/NewsPublications/InsideTrack/Pages/Article.aspx?Volume=8&Issue=7&ArticleID=24735


Wisconsin Medical Society:


Rebecca Mason Blog: Estate Planning: a Gift for your loved ones

National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16th is National Healthcare Decisions Day. NHDD is an effort to encourage people to sign a Health Care Power of Attorney and engage in conversations about end-of-life care.

Advance care planning involves making future healthcare decisions that include much more than deciding what care you would or would not want.

National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization, www.nhpco.org

What is a Health Care Power of Attorney?

A Health Care Power of Attorney is a document that allows you to direct the care you want to receive at or near the end stages of a terminal illness. You also appoint an agent to make decisions about your health care if you become incapacitated. The Health Care Power of Attorney provides written instructions to your agent addressing potential medical situations. 

Your Health Care Power of Attorney is one of the most important parts of your estate plan. In Wisconsin, if you do not have this document, nobody has legal authority to make decisions on your behalf (unless you obtain a court-ordered guardianship).  Not even your spouse.  And if you have children over 18, you have no authority to help your child if they are incapacitated without an advanced directive.

Too many people die in a manner they would not choose, and too many of their loved ones are left feeling bereaved, guilty, and uncertain.

National Healthcare Decisions Day – theconversationproject.org

Why is it so important to appoint an agent?  Medical advances make it possible to prolong your life despite a serious illness, or injury. Simply remaining alive may not be your only goal.  Many of us desire to have a quality life. Few want to simply exist hooked up to a bunch of machines. Your right to have medical treatment withdrawn or withheld is constitutionally protected. The right remains valid even if you become incapacitated

You also have the right to receive medical treatment even in cases that your doctors have deemed further treatment to be beyond hospital ethics standards or applicable laws. But you need an agent to advocate for you.

Leaving your care to local laws and Hospital Ethics guidelines?

As you can imagine, end of life medical care can – and often does – raise ethical and legal issues about your rights, the family’s rights, the medical profession’s role, and the state’s role. Part of this process is having a conversation about your end of life desires.

92% of people say that talking with their loved ones about end of life care is important, but only 32% of people actually have had the conversation.

National Healthcare Decisions Day organizers – nhdd.org

It is critically important that you talk with your loved ones. Especially a person you choose as your agent. Discuss your desires should you lack the capability to make decisions for yourself.  This is a personal decision. Your loved ones will want guidance to carry out your wishes to the best of their abilities. A surprising number of families, disagree over what an ill relative would prefer.  A Health Care Power of Attorney will help to make your wishes clear.  It will give your agent peace of mind.

National Healthcare Decisions Day Resources:

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

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.


Bring a shovel: One community’s NHDD story and lessons learned for the future

Wisconsin Community NHDD Blog Post by:
Ellen Koski, MPH, CPH. Director, Fox Valley Advance Care Planning


The Conversation Project

National Healthcare Decisions Day Partner organization


With Dementia, More is Needed than a Boilerplate Advance Directive

Katy Butler, a New York Times author & end-of-life speaker. Post is adapted from her book, “The Art of Dying Well: A Practical Guide to a Good End of Life”.  More info on Katy here. 


NHPCO Blog: National Healthcare Decisions Day

Inspire, educate and empower the public about the importance of advance care planning.


Estate Planning: a Gift for your loved ones

National Healthcare Decisions Day related content Blog Post by: Rebecca Mason

Why everyone needs an estate plan.

Some people think they don’t need an estate plan because they do not have millions in their estate.  This is far from the truth.  There are many other reasons to make a plan.  If you have minor children, you will want to name the person or persons who will serve as their guardian(s) if something happens to you.  Does your child have special needs?  You can plan so that they can inherit without losing government health insurance and other benefits.  Are you part of a blended family?  Without the proper estate planning, you may be surprised how Wisconsin state law divides your assets.  Do you own a small business?  You can avoid having to probate your business assets with the proper tools. 

Estate planning is also more than creating a trust or a will. 

A comprehensive estate plan includes power of attorney documents that set forth your wishes for your medical care and financial interests if you become incapacitated and names an agent who will ensure your wishes are followed.  These documents are some of the most important parts of your estate plan.  In Wisconsin, no person – not even your spouse – has the legal right to be involved in your medical decisions or even know about your medical needs if you are incapacitated.  You can give someone those rights by naming as your agent in your health care power of attorney. 

It is the same for your adult children.  Once your child turns 18, you need to be named as their agent in order to be involved in their care.  Similarly, no person has the legal right to assist with your financial matters. The documents you need to include in your estate plan will depend on your particular goals and assets.  Along with minimizing taxes and fees, effective estate planning can provide guidance, peace of mind, and lessen burdens for your loved ones.

Links:

Estate Planning @Rebecca Mason Law

Tax Season is a great time to create an Estate Plan Blog

A Frequent Question from our Clients

A frequent question from our clients (likely because our community is located on the beautiful shores of Lake Michigan) is whether you can have your ashes scattered over the lake. The answer? You can! subject to some restrictions.

That said, there are many meaningful ways for your loved ones to honor you. And at the same time provide some closure. Even many we have never heard of. This article explores some of the more unconventional options.

23 Remarkable Things to Do With Ashes to Honor Your Loved One

Wind Chime Urn

Another idea not included in this article is a wind chime: https://www.mainelyurns.com/amazing-grace-memorial-wind-chi…

Question? What has your family done? Comment below to share your families ideas that others may benefit from!

The attorneys at Rebecca Mason Law specialize in Estate Planning. In-addition we ensure your rights are respected even if you can’t yourself.

Thank you. SE Wisconsin

Today marks the first day of the seventh year for Rebecca Mason Law. We want to take this milestone opportunity to say thank you. Our team is honored to provide top-quality legal representation for southeastern Wisconsin and all of our clients.

My team works through some pretty tough times side by side with clients. We draft detailed estate plans, administer probates for your loved ones, work with families who have recently lost a loved one, and help you take care of your family members through guardianship’s.

Our office right here in Racine, WI has some of the most amazing clients in the world. It is our clients, who make this the best job ever. For that, we simply want to say Thank you!

I Met with a client today and we discussed the impending death of her mom. I was reminded of how fleeting life can be. And how amazing it is that I have the opportunity to walk this difficult walk with my clients. Thank you for sharing your stories about your loved ones. Thank you for sharing your tears. And being OK with being vulnerable. Thank you for sharing a little bit of yourselves with me. Because of you, this is the best job ever.

Rebecca Mason 8/25/2017