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Powerful “power of attorney” (POA) documents are essential, if there ever comes a time when you or your aging loved one becomes unable to manage finances or make health-care decisions.
Beware if you rely only on POAs that hospitals provide, or that you have pulled off the Internet, or that you have got from other attorneys who do not focus their practice specifically on elder law. When an emergency arises, the bank or health-care provider may refuse to allow your agent to act – and then the only recourse is to go to court and get a guardianship.
This is definitely not what you want to hear in an emergency. Guardianship proceedings cost time and money, they expose your private affairs to the public, and you or your elder can lose control of your autonomy. Worst case, unfriendly family-members can try to take advantage of a helpless elder, and it can cost tremendous anxiety and expense to defend against that threat.
This is why our POAs for financial and health-care matters total around fifty pages. We want to help to anticipate as many nuances as possible, to ensure that when you need assistance, your documents will be there to avoid guardianships and to help you get the responsible financial coverage and health-care treatment you need.
A client came in recently with a health-care POA from another state. She wanted know whether it would do the job for her father. We said emphatically “no.”
– The document failed to specify the kind of health-care the father would want; and
– It failed to comply with our state law, meaning that it likely wouldn’t work here; and
– It failed to protect the father’s agent from liability for a bad decision; and
– It failed to provide the agent with access to essential medical records; and
– It even failed to designate who should serve as an agent!
Our health-care documents do much, much more than that. And our financial POAs are so meticulous that we’ll cite just one example: We provide over two pages of detail covering real-estate transactions alone.
Check your POAs to see whether they do all of the above. For assistance in updating your POA, contact our Tuscaloosa office at (205) 764-1262 or our Montgomery office at 334-239-3625.