US Legal Willing and Able

WILLING & ABLE: NEW RUSH FOR LAST WORD

By PHILIP RECCHIA
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March 27, 2005 — Chances are that Lisa and Heather, two Manhattan women

in their early 30s and in perfect health, will live long, happy lives.
But last weekend, over drinks at the W Hotel, the old pals got to talking about Terri Schiavo.

They strongly agreed that in the event they found themselves in a similar state, they didn’t want someone else deciding their fates.

So strongly, in fact, that they drew up health-care proxies on scrap paper — right there in the bar — before having them witnessed by two strangers.

Stories like theirs played out in record numbers last week. Able-bodied, non-senior citizens prompted by the Schiavo case prepared for the possibility of becoming comatose or otherwise unable to communicate.

At U.S. Legal Forms, America’s largest online supplier of legal forms, sales of living wills were off the charts, rising 662 percent over the same period last year.

New York, by many accounts, is keeping pace with the nationwide rush to plan for such a tragic scenario.

On Thursday alone, 10,600 people downloaded health-care proxies, a widely recommended supplement to living wills, from the state Department of Health’s Web site. That compared to the 4,200 during the entire month of February.

Bernard Krooks, an elder-law attorney in Manhattan, says he was surprised by the age of callers to his office.

“I almost never have inquiries about living wills from anyone younger than 70. Last week, many were in their 40s and 50s,” he said.

One even younger couple, Lorelei Demesa, 28, and Robert Hogan, 22, of Queens, recently had living wills drawn up.

“We’d been talking about it off and on, but after reading about the family’s struggle, we said, ‘Let’s do it now,’ ” Demesa said.

“I’d hate to be in a vegetative state and not have my husband be able to move on with his life.”

Sunny Chapman, 54, an artist living in Williamsburg, made her decision based on a less-blissful marital scenario.

She’s in the process of divorcing her husband — whom she says hates her more than anyone in the world. “If something happens to me, the thought of him having control is horrifying,” she said.

So first thing Monday, Chapman plans to put her 28-year-old daughter in charge.