Accidents do Happen: Be Prepared with a Power of Attorney
On a sunny, summer day in 2010, I received a panicked call from a client. His 23-year old daughter had been riding in the back of a taxi cab when the cab was struck from the side. His daughter had not been wearing a seat belt. She was paralyzed from the accident and suffered severe brain damage. Her life would never be the same from then on.
Distraught and overwhelmed, my client needed to know what to do. How was he going to pay her bills? How would he consent to medical treatments for her? How would he apply for disability benefits on her behalf? Since she was so young, had not been married, had little money and no children, estate planning had never come up and she had no legal documents in place to allow her father the authority he desperately needed.
Without a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Advance Directive, her father was powerless. The only way for him to obtain the authority he needed was to pursue a guardianship in court. With every moment counting due to the severity of his daughter’s condition, he was forced to go through a lengthy and tiresome court process to obtain legal authority. Once he became her guardian, he had to report to the court with an accounting of every dollar he spent and attend a hearing to obtain court permission to take measures on her behalf. Had she simply signed two documents prior to her accident, documents that are a part of estate planning, this all could have been avoided.
While many people believe that you have to have a large estate to worry about estate planning, nothing could be farther from the truth. Estate planning is for everyone, young and old. At a minimum, anyone over age 18 should have a Durable Power of Attorney and a Health Care Advance Directive to avoid circumstances like these.
Under a Power of Attorney, the agent that is chosen can pay bills, sign contracts, sell assets, apply for benefits, communicate with financial institutions, and handle personal affairs without having to report their actions to a Judge. Similarly, a Health Care Surrogate can communicate with doctors, review medical records, consent to medical procedures and treatments and make medical decisions on your behalf.
We have many years of experience handling these matters and can work with you to determine who the best person is to serve as your agent under these documents. Call our office today to schedule your free consultation with our estate planning attorney.