By Sarah Stewart Legal Group
Everyone is familiar with former first ladies Barbara Bush and Betty Ford. Both impacted countless lives with their service, albeit in different ways. Barbara Bush advocated for children and literacy and died just days ago, on April 17th. Betty Ford was politically active and an avid feminist who died on July 8, 2011. Their deaths left a void in America’s hearts and can teach us valuable lessons.
Barbara Bush was an elegant woman. Her death was no different. She made choices in her estate plan that allowed her to decide how she would live out her final days. Her well-lived life deserved nothing more than a well-planned end. The circumstances surrounding her death prove she had a healthcare directive in place.
Barbara chose to stop treating her chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and heart failure. She chose to return home for her final days. Her plans enabled her to spend her last days peacefully with her family, enjoying a bourbon as her last drink.
Without a healthcare directive, families are left wondering what their loved ones’ wishes were for their medical care and treatment at the end of their lives. A healthcare directive tells your family what you want, and who you want to make important decisions, like withdrawing life support. Oklahoma law does not give authority to anyone, absent a directive, to agree to withhold or withdraw life support for a loved one.
Unlike Barbara, many U.S. citizens avoid planning their deaths. A study from the Palliative and Advanced Illness Research Center at the University of Pennsylvania in 2017 showed that 71 % of Americans do not have healthcare directives in place.
Let’s learn a lesson from this influential First Lady and make our plans today!
Betty Ford’s Special Wishes
Betty Ford was a spirited, opinionated, and lively first lady. In keeping with her character, Betty Ford used her estate plan to get her wish of having Cokie Roberts deliver a eulogy based on how political partisanship hurts the United States.
Betty left Cokie Roberts instructions on her eulogy, stating she wanted Cokie to discuss government in the 1960s and 1970s and how the parties were required to work together, mostly because they often socialized together. She picked Cokie Roberts because her father was a Democratic Congressman known for working well with a Republican, Gerald Ford.
Many families struggle with funeral arrangements. They ask themselves what their loved ones would have wanted. The more specific you are in your estate planning documents, the less guesswork you leave for your family. These are your documents. Make your funeral the party, or non-gathering, you always wanted it to be!
Follow the examples of these strong, memorable first ladies. Reach out to a professional to take action on your estate plans. Or, at the very least, start thinking about and writing down your wishes so your family can honor them and you can put them in more binding form later.
Start talking to your families out loud. Let them know what you want. These conversations may not seem easy, but the reality is, few things that are worth it ever are.