Lesson 3. Stay In The Driver’s Seat — Decide NOW Who Will Make Decisions For You When You Can’t Make Them Yourself.
“At Last” Etta James designated a Power of Attorney, however, at last may have been too late. We all know that life is unpredictable and often blindsides us on a sunny Tuesday afternoon. Sometimes, when a disaster strikes, it is only temporary. Other times, it can be life-altering. Even if the temporary situation, it is important that a decision makes is carefully selected and appointed to make decisions on your behalf when you are unable to do so. “At Last” Etta James designated a Power of Attorney, however, at last may have been too late.
Etta James’ final years of her life were wrought with drama and controversy. In addition to battling leukemia and advanced dementia, Etta’s husband of 42 years and her two adult sons from prior marriages hashed out a very public battle in court. The dispute centered on who would make her financial and medical decisions, and how much money the decision maker would be allowed to control for her care. Etta signed a Power of Attorney in 2008, naming one of her sons as her attorney-in-fact. Etta’s husband fought this, arguing that she already had dementia and was not competent to make decisions. Luckily for Etta, the matter was resolved in court shortly before her death, but not before the damage to the family and to the estate had already been done.
Lesson: Appointing a Power of Attorney can save your family from the emotional, financial and legal burden of instituting a Guardianship application in Court should you become incapacitated. These proceedings are costly, complex and time consuming, and result in the state overseeing every decision made on your behalf by your Guardian.
Without a Power of Attorney or Guardianship, your family will not be able to touch assets in your name – this includes bank accounts, deeds to real property and cars, and business interests – even if those assets are to be used for your care.
A Healthcare Proxy is especially important for children who have just turned 18 – did you know that a hospital and physicians caring for your adult child have no obligation to share any healthcare information with you or consult you regarding your child’s care or treatment without a Healthcare Proxy in place? Make sure the individual you appoint is responsible and trustworthy.