Elder Law: “Getting Power of Attorney and Health Care Directive Now Saves Money, Time, and Dignity Later”
The law tries to protect vulnerable people (minors, disabled, elderly). If you are trying to care for or assist someone in this category, or know you will at some point, the law can also help you protect them – if you plan ahead.
Ed’s mom has always been very independent and self-reliant. Ed has always asked her for personal and financial advice for himself and his family throughout his life and admires her very much. It never occurred to him that it wouldn’t always be like that. It took him a while to realize she was struggling with her finances and caring for herself and the family home. He tried to talk to her on several occasions and was not surprised that she was resistant to any assistance he offered. “How dare you,” she said. “That’s none of your business,” she said. Stunned and worried, Ed asked around about what his options were. Many asked if he had Power of Attorney for his mom. Others asked if she had named someone to be her Health Care Agent in a Health Care Directive. Ed knew she had neither. He knew his mom wouldn’t be able to be handle even the idea of these transactions now. Underneath all that old independence and self-reliance, she was clearly feeling scared and full of anxiety, and it broke Ed’s heart. But, as Ed kept his fingers crossed that it would all work out in the end, things just kept getting worse. Finally, when the neighbors called the police because Ed’s mom was wandering the neighborhood at night disoriented and lost, Ed realized he needed to step in and start making some decisions for her.
If Ed had Power of Attorney and was named as his Mom’s agent in a Health Care Directive, he would already have the law on his side to assist his mom. He would be able to make and handle financial decisions on her behalf, sign documents, sell real-estate, pay bills, find a new doctor, oversee her medical care, find her appropriate home health care, just to name a few. But, because he and his mom didn’t do that when his mom could actually make those choices and decide who would be best suited to help her with these things at this stage, now Ed has to go to Court and ask to be his mom’s legal Guardian (over her physical needs and concerns) and her legal Conservator (over her finances).
Power of Attorney and a Health Care Directive cost pennies in comparison to what the Court proceedings will cost. The time to make those documents is measured in a fraction of seconds compared to the time it will take to deal with this in Court, and Ed’s mom, if she’s able, will come to the hearing, and either speak for herself or listen as others speak about what they’ve seen and know about Ed’s mom – right in front of her. If Ed’s mom can understand the proceedings, she witnesses the law stepping in and handing her decision-making power to someone else – her son. Even if Ed knows his mother loves him and should trust him to take good care of her, his mom is clearly angry, humiliated, and hurt.
Ultimately, Ed and his mom get what they need. But, as you can see by this story, (which happens all the time!), Ed and his mom could have made things so much easier, less expensive, and time-consuming for themselves. Take the time to consider these important legal documents. Talk to a professional and find out what your options are while you still have so many from which you can choose.This blog is written by Bridget-Michaele Reischl, Attorney DECORO LAW OFFICE, PLLC www.decorolaw.com