To satisfactorily discuss a legal issue, I may spend a few columns writing about it. For example, recent columns have addressed long term care, and there is more on that topic I would like to share with you.
However, I also try to share real life examples (altered only to preserve privacy) to help illustrate the importance of these issues. The decisions you make can have very serious consequences.
Recently, I met with a family dealing with a terrible, unexpected crisis. A family member had been very seriously injured and will likely spend months – possibly years – recovering. His cognitive abilities have been seriously affected. For at least the foreseeable future, he will not be able to make any decisions. However, legal, financial and other decisions still have to be made.
He needs a power of attorney. A power of attorney is a document which allows you to grant another the authority to act for you. A person granted authority under a power of attorney can pay bills, or deal with banks, investments, taxes, etc. Granting a power of attorney does not mean you have given up any authority. It simply means someone else can also handle tasks for you.
Unfortunately, this person had not signed a power of attorney. Now it is too late. If someone does not have the capacity to make decisions, they do not have the capacity to sign a power of attorney.
As a result, we must now involve the Court to have a family member appointed as a guardian. That appointment will authorize the guardian to handle the same responsibilities that could have been handled with a power of attorney. However, the process will be much more complicated – and expensive. A guardianship can only be granted by a judge, and only after the judgment of a health care provider, a social worker and another attorney. On the other hand, a power of attorney only requires your signature . . . so long as you have the ability to choose you want a power of attorney.
Come to a free, no obligation presentation to find out how simple it can be to protect your estate.