Estate Planning Lessons from One Woman’s Journey with her Mother’s Cancer

A recent article published on was authored by an estate planning attorney whose own mother received a terminal cancer diagnosis. It was a poignant perspective from a woman who was a veteran in the estate planning field, only to have to call on that knowledge for her own family member.  

This article will summarize the takeaways from the unique perspective of an estate planner who had to plan for her own family member.  


How has the Schiavo case influenced estate planning?

  • Terri Schiavo was a woman who suffered a massive heart attack in 1990 and was left in a permanent vegetative state. Her husband and parents had a complicated and bitter legal battle over whether she would have wanted to be maintained in that vegetative state. 
  • This case was a horror story of what can happen in the absence of a clear advance medical directive. 
  • The number one lesson from this case is that the battle between the husband and the parents was preventable, had Schiavo properly prepared by making her wishes known and documented. 
  • Here you can see more details about the Schiavo case.  


Why might estate planning be particularly important for those of a particular faith?

  • In the Schiavo case, the role of faith played prominently in the push and pull of the end of life debate. 
  • Similarly, the author’s mother was part of a faith-based community and therefore had very strong beliefs about what her end-of-life care should look like and how her body should be treated in the final moments. 
  • The takehome lesson here is that family members can benefit from directives as to what the person wanted, what customs to follow, and what preferences to adhere to.   
  • The author’s experience with her mother helped her realize that the stress and emotion of a tough diagnosis are draining, so it can be particularly challenging to start on estate planning when someone’s health is in the declining stages.
  • It’s much easier to plan ahead during times of health.


If you need help getting started on estate planning, or if you are looking to update or expand on work already completed, contact the  Law Office of David Knecht. We have extensive experience with estate planning in California. Contact us at 707-451-4502 for more information.