Comedy legend and TV personality Joan Rivers once told TIME Magazine, “I ain’t afraid of death. I’m in show business, I’ve died a million times.” Sadly, the media icon passed away on September 4, 2014 while undergoing a routine endoscopy. The procedure, which involves an analysis of the throat while the patient is anesthetized, was carried out by two experienced physicians.
What ultimately led to the media icon’s death was a spur-of-the-moment decision by the operating doctors to perform a biopsy on a polyp-growth in Rivers’ throat. Many in the medical world have explained that surgery, especially on an elderly patient, should be performed in a hospital, not an out-patient care center.
Medical malpractice suspicions aside, the following valuable estate planning lessons can be learned from the life and death of Joan Rivers:
· All surgeries have risks — Any type of surgery is invasive. Regardless of how young or old you may be, mistakes and unpredictable complications can arise. Remember, the procedure that ultimately claimed Rivers’ life was scheduled and routine. Joan drafted and signed her will at the Surrogate’s Court in New York on Nov. 16, 2011.
· Power of attorney for health care makes tough decisions easier on loved ones — Prior to Rivers’ death she had a vital legal document in place: a power of attorney for healthcare. This document gave Melissa Rivers, Joan’s daughter, the power to make important decisions regarding her mother’s care if she became incapacitated or disabled. Eventually, with a power of attorney in place, Melissa made the decision to remove her mother from life support.
· You can ensure pets, as well as heirs, are taken care of after you are gone — Over the course of her more than half a century career, Joan Rivers amassed a fortune of $150 million. In her estate plan, Rivers’ left all her possessions to her daughter Melissa, her grandson Cooper and her four dogs. A pet trust ensures that your dog, cat, parakeet or other domestic animal is taken care of after you are gone. An animal lover her whole life, Rivers’ once jested that her dogs were better than a husband, “Because they didn’t leave the toilet seat up”.
· Don’t forget charities — In her life, Joan Rivers supported many charities. Yet she also made sure that the charities she supported in life (Guide Dogs for the Blind, Jewish Guild Healthcare, Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to name a few) received contributions after her death.
· Specify how your remains should be handled — You may think it a bit morbid to ponder your demise and how your remains should be laid to rest. However, whether you would like to be cremated or buried, it is important that you leave explicit instructions for your heirs. In keeping with the late comedienne’s wishes, Joan Rivers’ body was cremated in North Bergen, New Jersey.
By drafting a comprehensive estate plan, Joan Rivers ensured that her family and her dogs were well taken care of after her death.
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