The office of the Musicians’ Assistance Program is your one-stop shop for musicians’ health. We offer counseling – both one-on-one and in groups – as well as information on all kinds of social services, including health insurance, food stamps and more. All services are free to Local 802 members. Contact us at MAP@Local802afm.org or (212) 397-4802.
End-of-life planning is not high on anyone’s list of favorite topics. The mere thought of it can trigger fear and anxiety. But the truth is, careful planning will actually produce the opposite effect.
Planning ahead is always a smart thing to do; it will ensure that your wishes will be honored in the event you can no longer communicate them. It is also a gift to your surviving friends and family. With your wishes in place, you spare them the stress and potential disagreements about medical treatment decisions if you can no longer speak for yourself.
To begin your own planning, consider:
- Who is most qualified to make health decisions for you if you should be incapacitated?
- Are there religious rituals that are important to you?
- What kind of individualized funeral or memorial arrangements would you like?
Advanced directives provide a plan for your medical treatment in the event you become unable to make decisions. You can also appoint a healthcare proxy to act on your behalf. This person will be a legal agent to make treatment decisions for you. Consider those people close to you, family and friends. Select a person who understands and shares your views on health care. This person should be someone whom you trust to carry out your wishes.
A living will is a document that outlines your wishes regarding medical treatment; typically it includes the refusal of life-prolonging treatment when death is imminent. Having advanced directives will ensure that your wishes about medical treatments are honored by doctors and hospitals. It also provides a way to avoid family conflicts because you have already made all the relevant decisions.
To ensure your property is managed as you’d wish, you need to write a will. A will is a legal document in which you declare who will manage your estate after you die. Your estate can include major items like property or financial investments but it can also include smaller items that have special significance to you like jewelry, photos or other sentimental items. If your children are minors, the will designates who will become their guardian. Keep in mind, if you die without a will, your estate goes into probate and a judge will assign an administrator. This person is generally not a friend or family member and will be bound to distribute your property and possessions according to probate laws, which may not be in keeping with your wishes. Wills are fairly easy to write; you don’t need a lawyer although a lawyer can provide guidance as well as some useful estate planning strategies.
Making end-of-life plans can feel overwhelming and it is not unusual for people to make the mistake to avoid it all together. Of course, it’s hard to think about the end of our own lives, but death is a normal, natural and inevitable part of life and there are so many compelling reasons for you to put these plans in place sooner than later. By planning ahead, you provide clarity to your family and friends will minimize the potential for conflict. You make the decisions.
To address end-of-life concerns, please feel free to call the MAP office. We can point you towards various resources as well as talk about your concerns. Reach us by calling (212) 397-4802 or by sending an e-mail to MAP@Local802afm.org.
This story originally appeared in the October 2011 issue of Allegro, the magazine of the New York City musicians’ union (AFM Local 802). For reprint requests, send an e-mail to editor Mikael Elsila at Allegro@Local802afm.org.