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Helping People Age with Dignity

Misinterpretation concerns in estate planning

Among the worries a person may have in relation to their estate plan is a worry that their planning documents might be misinterpreted.

Interpretation problems with estate planning documents can have significant ramifications. If a person’s will or trust contains confusing language and is misinterpreted, it could result in asset distribution going differently than the person would have wanted. If health care planning documents, such as living wills and end-of-life care documents, aren’t interpreted correctly by doctors, it could result in a person’s end-of-life care being contrary to their actual desires.

So, making sure one’s wishes are clearly expressed can be very important in estate planning documents. Given this, how such documents are drafted can be a very impactful matter. So, individuals may want to turn to the help of skilled lawyers when it comes to the drafting of such documents.

What sorts of things beyond using clear language could help with reducing the likelihood of interpretation issues coming up in connection to planning documents? A recent study indicates that, when it comes to health care planning documents, video might prove helpful.

In the study, physicians were given nine different scenarios in which they were asked to interpret a patient’s wishes from living wills or end-of-life care documents. Some of the doctors were just given the documents. Others were also given a video by the patient.

The study found that the doctors who were also given the videos came to a consensus on the interpretation of the patient’s wishes in more of the scenarios than the physicians who just got the documents. This suggests that patient videos may help with clarifying patient end-of-life wishes for doctors.

One wonders if video might one day become a common tool used for trying to prevent misinterpretation of health care planning documents.

Source: Medscape, “Patient Videos Clarify End-of-Life Documents,” Marcia Frellick, Feb. 22, 2017

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