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Don’t Forget Your Power of Attorney

Quite recently, regular clients of mine, Alan and Sara (not their real names), booked an appointment to discuss the preparation of powers of attorney for property and personal care. These documents nominate individuals to make decisions about their assets and personal care decisions, including health care decisions, in the event that they become unable or incapable of making such decisions for themselves. Alan and Sara are both in their late 60s, and Alan’s older brother had recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. There had been significant confusion about who would make decisions on his brother’s behalf in the absence of power of attorney documents. After a lengthy and costly court process, Alan and two of his brother’s four children were ultimately appointed to act jointly as guardians for his brother’s property and personal care. Alan and Sara wanted to ensure that in the event either of them became unable or incapable of making decisions for themselves, it would be clear who should make such decisions for them and their dailies would hopefully avoid the cost and stress of going to court to have guardians appointed.

I explained to Alan and Sara that in order to avoid confusion about who would make such decisions for them, they would need what are known as continuing powers of attorney for property and personal care. If properly drafted and witnessed, these documents would remain valid even in the vent that one or both of them subsequently became unable or incapable of appointment we discussed selecting and identifying appropriate attorneys, specific health care directives, possible restrictions on the powers or authority of the attorneys, and the appointment of alternate attorneys in the event that the primary attorney was not available or willing to act as attorney. Alan and Sara returned to my office a few days later to review the drafts and have their documents properly witnessed and executed in order to ensure validity.

Alan and Sara expressed great relief and peace of mind for having finally come around to dealing with these important decisions and documents. In proactively dealing with these difficult issues now, they have greatly decreased the risk that their family will again have to deal with the types of conflicts and costs that previously surrounded decision making for Alan’s brother.

Andrew Unger                                                                                                                                                                                                          Lawyer