Power of Attorney – Get it!
A friend of mine visited his late father’s wife at a retirement community in Portland, Oregon. As he was preparing to leave, he noticed a newspaper, the Northwest Boomer & Senior News. In the paper was a column by Sam Friedenberg called Elder Law. He learned some very useful information from Friedenberg, an attorney who has been practicing law for thirty years. He discusses family law for elders.
Power of Attorney – Get It!
Here’s why. If you jointly own a home and your spouse becomes incompetent, you cannot sell the house because both signatures are needed to transfer the deed to a new owner.
A power of attorney (POA) is a written authorization that allows you to appoint a person or organization to manage your affairs if you become unable to do so. Each spouse signs a POA when they are healthy authorizing the other to represent or act on each other’s behalf in private affairs, business, or some other legal matter. You want to make sure the POA is a Durable POA. If a power of attorney document does not explicitly say that the power is durable, it ends if one of you becomes incapacitated
What happens if a spouse becomes incompetent due to dementia, mental illness, or a coma and you don’t have a POA? Friedenberg says you will have to go through the court system to have the spouse declared legally incompetent. It is an expensive and time-consuming process.
What happens if you decide the house is now too big, or you want to move closer to your children? Once in the court system, you have to account for every cent you spend. It’s like probate for the rest of your life.
*Please seek legal advice before signing a POA of any kind.
Like Power of Attorney, an Advanced Healthcare Directive – Get It!
An advance healthcare directive, also known as a living will, personal directive, advance directive, medical directive or advance decision, is a legal document in which a person specifies what actions should be taken for their health if they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves because of illness or incapacity. In the U.S. it has a legal status in itself, whereas in some countries it is legally persuasive without being a legal document.
An Advance Healthcare Directive must be signed before two witnesses who are 18 or older. The witnesses cannot be beneficiaries under your will, nor may they be persons who would inherit your property if you died without a will. An Advance Directive is not required to be notarized.
A health care directive or POLST for physician’s order for life-sustaining treatment is there for all health care decisions. Family members may act in ways contrary to the patient’s wishes without a POLST.
Finally, long-term care in a retirement facility, assisted living, or memory care costs $4,000 to $9,000 per month. Every assisted living center has access to Medicaid, and cannot shortchange quality care should you run out of money. Caring for the patient may involve placing a lien on the patient’s property. My mother recently set up some matter of trust that protects the house from a lien.
*Again, please seek legal advice and financial advice before opening any kind of trust.