It’s Time To Have “The Conversation” With Your Loved Ones – Today

By Stephen J. Silverberg
New York Elder Law Attorney

If you haven’t had “the conversation” with your adult children, it’s time.  For adult children, this is the conversation that closes a circle that began when your parents had a conversation with you about an important life event.  For aging parents, this is the conversation that you may dread – but you will be giving your children the gift of knowing what you want and alleviating them from a lifetime of second guessing.

The conversation is about death, something we dislike talking about. The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the discussion of critical illness and death to our doorsteps, and it’s time for that conversation to take place.

Start with the basics. Is there a will, and if so, when was it last updated? If there is no will, it’s time to get that done. An outdated will could create just as many problems for the family as no will at all.

New York State residents are now allowed to have their wills executed and witnessed though the use of videoconferencing, so you can have this done without leaving your home.

Next, do you have the correct health documents prepared?

  • A health care proxy names a person who may make medical decisions for you if you are not able to do so for yourself.
  • The HIPAA release form allows health care workers to share information about your health care.
  • The living will tells your health care proxy and family what your wishes are for end-of-life care.
  • The DNR – Do Not Resuscitate – is a document that expresses your wishes to not be brought back to life if your heart or other vital functions should stop working.

Here’s an important detail: all of these documents need to be prepared and accessible to family members so they can be used. They also should be as recent as possible; older documents may not be accepted.

We draft all of these documents based not only on our decades of experience, but after conversations with clients when we learn about their family situations, which members of the family they believe will be able to carry out their decisions, which ones should be kept out of any decision making processes, and what their goals are for care and end of life decisions.

For instance:

  • Do you want health care providers to give you pain relief medications?
  • Do you want to have certain life-sustaining options and not others? Some life-sustaining methods include tube feeding, having breathing done for you by a ventilator, kidney dialysis, antibiotics, or CPR, to name a few.
  • How long would you want your life to be sustained by artificial means?
  • Do you want to have any life-sustaining systems removed if your brain is not functioning? Or do you want your heartbeat to be the indicator of life continuing?

These are highly personal decisions, about a difficult subject. But imagine your family faced with making these decisions, without knowing what you wanted to happen? And now, imagine them knowing what you wanted, because you told them in advance.

Our office is open, accepting new clients, and working safely. We welcome your calls and questions.


About the Author
Stephen J. Silverberg is nationally recognized as a leader in the areas of estate planning, estate administration, asset preservation planning, and elder law. He is a past president of the prestigious National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys (NAELA), and a founding member and past president of the New York State chapter of NAELA.