As I and my family are wading through all this, we are learning - I certainly am. Hopefully some of these posts, aside from giving me a place to vent, will prove thought-provoking for folks who've yet to find themselves in this quagmire.
A great deal of what I'm about to say has likely been posted elsewhere, but because most of us believe we are immortal and eternally healthy and that to contemplate events to the contrary as acts of varying degrees of morbidity.
This has brought home to me there are a number of little items that I've left undone through buying into such mythologies, and I'm beginning to address them.
What I'm doing:
2) Living Will/Medical Power of Attorney
3) General Power of Attorney
4) Explanatory letter.
Something we haven't faced, and I don't believe we will, in our situation (though it's happened elsewhere in the clan) is the battle of the competing heirs in the absence of a will, or alternatively in the presence of an insufficiently specific will. Watching that, many moons ago, persuaded me of the virtues of painful specificity and letting the pro's do the actual writing.
The Living Will concept seems to be an evolving notion - as far as I can tell it came to the fore with the horrors of over-enthusiastic use of new life-saving and support technology, and addressed the "The lights are on, but nobodies home" issue quite nicely - but in its' initial iterations has not addressed the notion of "Somebodies home, but locked in a sensory deprivation tank with random pain stimuli".
It doesn't look like the right time to examine this is when the crisis is upon one. Seems more of a "prior planning prevents" kind of situation. Same with the General Power of Attorney - ask yourself "just when should it kick in" and "what will trigger it without my intervention"? If you're laying there unconscious or unable to communicate, how is anyone to know you HAVE a safe deposit box, let alone how to get into it or that there are relevant documents...
I know what I want and don't want, but expecting folks to mind-read and then torture themselves after wondering if they got it wrong seems a bit cruel.
Thus the explanatory letter - in simple lay language, explaining why I'm doing what I'm doing in the aforementioned documents, attempting to torpedo predictable disputes, and finally, saying a gracious good-bye if I am not in shape to do so for myself.
Finally...if myself and one of my friends have experienced...if you are aging and tucking cash and goodies away in little nooks all over creation...leave at least one "hint" list for those y'all leave behind. It's *NICE* to know where the mortgage papers are, the insurance documents, and sundry other details. Leave the list someplace safe, but findable...
I will, of course, defer to greater expertise on this, but this is my take on it as I'm walking through it...