National Healthcare Decisions Day

April 16 is National Healthcare Decisions Day.  This day is a reminder of the importance for each of us to articulate our medical wishes now in case we can’t speak for ourselves later and to share them with those who matter. It is also a reminder to call our parents, older loved ones and friends and discuss with them how important it is for them to let others know of their medical wishes.

Use April 16th as a day to think about your own healthcare decisions and update your advance directive/living will if needed.  If you don’t have a proxy for healthcare and a living will, use this day to think about those documents and contact an attorney to begin the process of preparing them.

If discussion of these issues is uncomfortable to have with your parents and siblings, call me to schedule a family mediation so that all interested family members can participate in the discussion in a non-threatening and confidential environment.



Children and Divorce: Who Makes the Medical Decisions?

Parents anticipating a divorce or in the midst of a divorce focus on issues of child support, custody, parenting time and education of their children. Emancipation is looked at in terms of whether or not child support will be continuing and if parents will be paying college tuition and expenses.

It is rare that attention is also focused on the fact that once a child turns 18 the parent is no longer able to make healthcare decisions for the child without the child’s written authorization. What does this mean?

As each child celebrates his/her 18th birthday, the child should include in the planning of the celebration the execution of a healthcare Power of Attorney known as a healthcare Proxy. If a child is 18 or older and is injured in a car accident after a prom or a graduation celebration, parents may encounter problems in the medical community making decisions for their child since their child is now considered an adult. Without HIPAA authorization (the medical privacy act), which should be part of the Healthcare Proxy, medical personnel are not allowed to share medical information with anyone other than the patient. The parent appointed by the child as the child’s Proxy for Healthcare will be able to make the medical decisions necessary for that child without having to contend with legal barriers.

I suggest you discuss this issue with your mediator and then with your child. The discussion with your child may be uncomfortable because parents do not want to contemplate that their child will be in a critical medical situation which requires the parents to make life and death decisions for their child and the child thinks he/she is invulnerable and doesn’t have to think about being injured or sick.

Please take this issue to heart and call me if I can be of assistance to you.

National Healthcare Decisions Week (April 16-22)

One of the important decisions that people getting divorced have to make, and often overlook, is deciding who will be their healthcare proxy after the divorce.  If you already have a health care proxy, you probably named your spouse.  Do you still want your spouse to make your health care decisions for you once you are divorced, or even while you are going through a divorce?  If you do not have a health care proxy, now is the time to name someone to fill that very important role.

“Did you know:

  • Health care agents make medical decisions for about half of the adults over 65 who are hospitalized.
  • In more than half of the instances where an agent must act, the agent is making decisions about life-sustaining treatments.
  • In about a quarter of cases, the health care agent is making all medical decisions for the patient.”


This is an issue you can discuss with your mediator or with an estate planning attorney.

Please don’t hesitate to contact me if you need assistance in this area.

Divorce and the new NJ Gas Tax

Last week the NJ Legislature passed a bill which will replenish the transportation trust fund by increasing the New Jersey gas tax by 23 cents per gallon. Governor Christie is expected to sign it this week.  What does this have to do with your divorce?

As I have discussed in a previous blog, Family Mediation: Planning for the Future 2-18-2014, persons getting divorced or those recently divorced should redo their financial planning documents, including their Last  Will and Testament.  Couples usually have named their spouses in their Wills, Powers of Attorney and Advance Directives for Healthcare.  The same couples usually do not want to have their former spouses as beneficiaries of their estate, as their attorney-in-fact or their proxy for healthcare decisions, hence the documents should be revisited and revised.  This is even more important now since the bill also includes the raising of the the estate tax exemption for the NJ Estate Tax in 2017 to $2,000,000 and the elimination of the NJ Estate Tax by January, 2018.   Any financial planning documents your attorney prepared included your decisions in regard to tax planning based on the existence of the NJ Estate Tax as well as the NJ Inheritance Tax.  These documents may now be outdated.

The changes to these documents might be part of your divorce settlement agreement.  As a mediator I can help you with these decisions and include them in your agreement.  If you are already divorced, I can advise you individually as to the changes in the law and review your documents so you can make informed decisions in regard to updating these documents.