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Is this Medicare policy not just a bit short sighted?

A truism regarding estate administration that any seasoned lawyer knows to be flatly true is that a sound plan is fully grounded in due consideration of planning concerns in their entirety.

Parsed out just a bit more, that means this: Because the lives of most people are anything but one-dimensional, their estate planning documents must necessarily consider a number of interrelated factors that collectively figure into the planning mix.

In other words: A plan is seldom effective when it only addresses a single component of a complex life. Proven planners strive always to fully address every consideration that is key for an individual or family.

What that often results in is planning that focuses upon a will, one or more trusts, due consideration of family members with special needs, the disposition of property, inheritances, gifting and charities, family legacies, health care concerns and more. These are all interrelated. Treating them as anything less undercuts planning in a manner that materially defeats its purpose.

A recent media article spotlights a new Medicare policy that encourages doctors to -- and there is no other way to put this -- engage in estate planning with their aged patients by paying them to do so.

The bottom line: An elder person stopping in for an exam can now receive instruction from a doctor -- in fact, from a nurse and other medical personnel, as well -- regarding fundamentally important consideration in the estate administration realm. Those centrally include an MD's input on end-of-life care decisions and related legal documents.

No reasonable estate planning attorney would dismiss such a development out of hand, given that trusted doctors are obviously singularly well placed to discuss many important things with patients.

There does seem something immediately concerning about the recent Medicare policy, though, namely, that it might reasonably foster unjustifiable reliance by patients on a physician's ability to render specialized legal advice. Moreover, many doctors might simply be too uncomfortable exercising the role of advice giver on important estate planning matters.

Indeed, the above-cited article notes the discomfort wrought in many physicians by the new enactment.

"Many [doctors] are not trained to offer such advice," notes the story, and they "are uncomfortable talking about it with patients."

Understandably, an empathetic MD might wish to raise certain matters with a patient and then logically advise him or her to consult a proven legal professional to follow through.

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