Archive for the ‘Power of Attorney’ Category

Making Decisions on Senior Housing

Tuesday, September 15th, 2015

When an older person needs care and can no longer live with full independence, the senior and his or her family are faced with a number of decisions to make. There is often a range of choices available such as assisted living, in-home care, or a skilled nursing facility, and the task of deciding what is right for the individual senior can seem overwhelming.Littman Krooks Elder Law

The decision may be difficult, but families do not have to face it alone. With Americans age 85 and older the fastest growing age group, millions of Americans are now struggling with this very issue, and there are a number of specialists that are available to assist them.

The exact type of assistance that is required depends on the needs of the individual senior and the family’s situation. Families may need to seek guidance from their family doctor, a financial planner, or an elder care specialist. Crucial assistance can be provided by an elder law attorney, who can provide services such as drafting documents that give power of attorney to a trusted family member so that medical and financial decisions can be made if the senior loses the capacity to make them.

A key factor in making a good decision on senior housing is advance planning. Too often families end up making a decision because of a crisis such as a health issue that has taken a turn for the worse. However, in many cases, the need for care can be predicted and planned for. If the family waits for a crisis to develop, they may not have time to consider all the options.

Ideally, the choice of a housing situation for a senior will come out of a series of family discussions that incorporate the senior’s needs and desires, the available options, and the family’s financial situation. Taking the time to consider the options, and seek expert counsel, can allow a family to craft a unique solution for the individual’s unique needs.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

Joni Mitchell and Conservatorship

Wednesday, August 5th, 2015

Beloved singer-songwriter Joni Mitchell was found unconscious in her Los Angeles home on March 31, having suffered a brain aneurysm. After Mitchell spent more than a month in the hospital, her longtime friend Leslie Morris was appointed her conservator to make medical decisions for her while she recovers. As fans wish Mitchell a full recovery, they may also be wondering, “What is a conservator?”

A conservator or adult guardian is appointed by the court to make certain decisions on behalf of an adult who has become unable to make such decisions on his or her own, due to a physical or mental condition, or advanced age. The court may place certain limits on the guardianship or conservatorship. For instance, the court in Los Angeles granted Morris control only over Mitchell’s medical care, in the absence of the 24-hour care she received in the hospital. A court may also grant a conservator or guardian control over a disabled person’s financial affairs or other aspects of his or her life, such as whether the person should reside at home or in a nursing facility.

A conservator or guardian can be essential in protecting the well-being of a person who has become unable to make his or her own decisions. A conservator or guardian can pay bills for the incapacitated person, prevent financial abuse, prevent self-neglect, and advocate for the person’s health.

The court may appoint a conservator or guardian in response to a petition submitted to the court. For example, in New York, a guardianship proceeding is brought under Article 81 of the Mental Hygiene Law. However, guardianship is considered a drastic remedy, and the court is required to consider less restrictive alternatives, such as home health aides, representative payees and other solutions that may meet the person’s needs without the appointment of a guardian.

In many cases, if a durable power of attorney or health care proxy has been appointed before the person becomes incapacitated, then guardianship proceedings are unlikely to be necessary. This is one reason why people planning their estate should give such appointments careful consideration.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

It’s Time to Protect Your Family and Your Future – 2015 National Financial Literacy Month

Tuesday, April 14th, 2015

In support of the 2015 Improving Financial Awareness & Financial Literacy Campaign built around National Financial Literacy Month (April) and six month later during National Estate Planning Awareness Week (3rd week in October) the following estate planning article contains a very important message.

Over 50% of our adult population does not have a current or up-to-date estate plan to protect themselves and their family’s assets; that’s half your family, friends, and associates.

6-2-Graphic-FPArticle
Estate planning is a financial process that can protect you and your family and is a very important component of your overall financial planning. Now is the perfect time to put your estate planning house in order. If you don’t have an up-to-date estate plan and you happen to get hurt or sick and cannot manage your financial affairs, the courts will have to appoint someone to manage them for you. The person they appoint might not be the one you would want to perform those tasks.

Without an estate plan, when you pass away, your affairs will be settled by default through a complex legal system called “probate.” The handling of your financial affairs can turn into a costly and frustrating ordeal for your family and heirs.

The crafting of a good estate plan starts with planning, followed by the proper drafting and signing of appropriate legal documents such as wills, trusts, buy-sell agreements, durable powers of attorney for asset management, and an advanced health-care directive or health-care power of attorney. Having these documents in place saves you and your family a lot of money and time at a very difficult and emotional time. 5-2-Graphic-EPArticle
Your estate planning should also address the coordination of the way you hold title to your various assets, your beneficiary selections, and the possible transfer of certain assets while you are alive.

Regardless of the extent of your net worth, estate planning is important for everyone. Complex strategies may be used by wealthy people to reduce death taxes and costs. Others may only require a simple will and/or trust to pass on property to their heirs and provide for minor children.

Even if a simple will is all you require, an estate plan is an essential part of your financial planning. Everybody will need it someday. The time to address or update your estate plan is now.

For more information on estate and financial planning content, contact
V.Sabuco@TheFinancialAwarenessFoundation.org.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.elderlawnewyork.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

 

How to Make Health Care Decisions for Someone Else

Friday, January 23rd, 2015

By: Bernard A. Krooks, J.D., CPA, LLM (in taxation), CELA®, AEP® (Distinguished)

Maybe you’ve been named guardian (of the person) for a family member, colleague, or friend. Maybe you’ve been listed as an agent in a health proxy. Maybe you’re a family member with authority to make health care decisions (New York, like a number of other states, permits family members or others to make most health care decisions in at least some cases). How you got there is not the point, at least not for today. Today’s question: how do you go about making decisions for someone else when you have been given the power — and responsibility — to do so?

For centuries the American common law (and its English predecessor) focused on the “best interest” of someone who was no longer able to make their own decisions. It was not until relatively recently that the concept of “substituted judgment” began to seep into legal discussions. Today the latter notion drives health care decision-making in most cases.

But what does that mean? One early description suggested that a person making decisions for someone else should try “to reach the decision that the incapacitated person would make if he or she were able to choose.” That means that the decision-maker should try to substitute the patient’s decision for his or her own, not the other way around. In other words, the guardian/agent/surrogate should first try to figure out what the patient/principal would want in the circumstances.

Let’s simplify some of the language, just to keep things from bogging down in legalisms. Let’s use “principal” for the person signing a health care proxy, or subject to a guardianship, or (however they got there) presently incapable of making decisions. The person making the decision, signing the hospital’s forms, choosing a facility, or whatever — we’ll call him or her the “surrogate”.

So now you’re the surrogate, and you’re trying to figure out what you should consider when making your decisions. Here’s a list (probably not comprehensive) of things you might look to:

Did the principal sign any documents? A living will, for instance, might give some insight into the principal’s wishes. There are plenty of other documents that might be useful, though — from worksheets filled out at a seminar on advance directives to letters to family members to descriptions of other patient’s circumstances.

Did you have any conversations with your principal? Maybe you talked about other patients in the news, and how your principal felt about their stories. Be careful here — we remember one client who adamantly said she didn’t want to “go through what Terri Schiavo did.” It wasn’t until we followed up with the client that we figured out that she meant that she thought it was terrible that the legal system allowed Ms. Schiavo to die. We had assumed that she meant she wouldn’t have wanted to be kept alive, but that was the exact opposite of her meaning.

Did anyone else have conversations with your principal? Ask family, friends, co-workers and others who might have discussed health care issues with the principal while they were still capable of forming a decision.

Ask your principal. Is he or she able to talk at all? Then ask for direction. That doesn’t mean you have to follow whatever a now-demented patient says he or she wants — the principal might simply respond affirmatively to almost every question, making the answer depend on how you ask. But just because you’ve been given responsibility for the decision it does not follow that your principal’s opinion is no longer relevant.

Consider your principal’s life history. Was he or she particularly religious, or irreligious? Do you know what family members would prefer (and whether your principal would be more likely to agree with or oppose the family)? Did other family members or acquaintances go through similar circumstances, and is your principal’s response helpful to you while making this decision?

Talk to the medical team. What seems like a major decision might not seem so significant after you’ve discussed the risks and burdens associated with a given procedure (or decision to forego a procedure).

If you can’t figure out what your principal would want, then you move from applying “substituted judgment” principles to determining the “best interests” of your principal. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to approve treatment.

Weigh the “burdens” of treatment against the benefits. Is a proposed operation painful, dangerous, or uncertain? Or might it alleviate pain, make your principal more comfortable, or increase the odds of recovery?

Strive for consensus. You are supposed to be figuring out what your principal would want, but the input of family, friends and the medical community is worth considering in an attempt to avoid infighting, undercutting and acrimony. Your principal’s care might not be best-served by having a difficult situation made more tense.

As a last resort, consider submitting difficult choices to the courts for resolution. That gives everyone a chance to air their positions in a formal setting, and focuses the questions on the principal’s wishes — and care. But it is time-consuming and expensive, and should not be invoked unless there is real difficulty in making the correct decision.

It is a challenge to make health care decisions for someone else. It is also a terrific gift to the principal to accept the responsibility and discharge it carefully and well. Another day we’ll write about how you can make that job easier when you’re the principal rather than the surrogate. In the meantime, take the surrogate’s job seriously, and do your best to substitute your principal’s decisions for those you might make for yourself.

 

Learn more about our services by visiting www.littmankrooks.com.


Was this article of interest to you? If so, please LIKE our Facebook Page by clicking here.

Sharing Caregiving Responsibilities Among Siblings

Thursday, November 14th, 2013

Caring for an elderly parent in declining health is a big responsibility, and one that can have a significant effect on the caregiver’s financial and emotional well-being. Having a sibling to share in that responsibility can make things easier, but it can also lead to conflict and resentment. It is important to understand the issues that may arise when two or more adult siblings are caring for an elderly parent, and the best ways to resolve problems.

One question that usually comes up at the outset is who will be the primary caregiver. If only one sibling lives close to the parent who needs care, that is often the deciding factor. When two or more siblings live close by, then the decision often depends on work schedules. If none of the siblings live close to the parent or have time available, then the question becomes how to divide the expense of hiring an in-home health aide or perhaps an assisted living facility, depending on the circumstances.

Good communication is probably the most important factor in making these decisions. Ideally, responsibilities will be divided in whatever way feels fair to everyone involved, and arriving at the best outcome depends on communication. Siblings should be encouraged to share exactly what they feel they should contribute and why. Factors such as an individual’s family income or work schedule are legitimate concerns that may play into decision-making. Feelings about this should be stated plainly so that later resentments can be avoided. Siblings should try their best not to let old sibling rivalries get in the way. Adult siblings caring for an elderly parent are taking on new roles, and they are best served by not replaying old ones.

In addition to family income and work schedules, siblings should consider each other’s particular skills. If one sibling is a more frugal money manager, it may make sense for him or her to hold the power of attorney for the parent. Someone with experience as a caregiver may do the best job handling day-to-day care. One fact that should not be forgotten is that caregiving is valuable and important work. Siblings who are not involved with day-to-day care may not be aware of just how much work is involved. The caregiving sibling should not be afraid to speak up and share with the others how much time goes into giving care for their parent. It can be easy for a sibling that is contributing more time or contributing more money to feel that his or her contribution is unfair or is going unrecognized. Full and frank discussion is the best solution.

Finally, as with most things, careful planning will save a lot of headaches. Just as mom or dad’s schedule of doctor’s appointments and daily medications needs to be kept track of, so should the finances be kept in careful order. An estate planning attorney or financial adviser can be invaluable in preparing a budget that accounts for the cost of different types of care that may be needed.

Phrasing Affects Do Not Resuscitate Choices

Wednesday, July 10th, 2013

 

Researchers at the University of Pittsburgh recently studied what factors affect the decisions of people who are designated health care surrogates for a loved one. The researchers showed 252 people a video simulation of an actor posing as a doctor appraising them of a certain health condition and asking whether the patient should be resuscitated. They found that the way information is phrased makes a significant difference in what the health care surrogate chooses.

The study, developed in part by Dr. Amber Barnato and published in Critical Care Medicine, found that two factors made the biggest difference in the decision. One factor was whatever the health care surrogate believed other people in the same situation had chosen. When people were told that most people want CPR to be performed if the patient’s heart stopped in a certain situation, 64 percent also wanted CPR to be tried. If they were told that most people do not choose for CPR to be performed, then only 48 percent chose CPR.

The other significant factor was whether the “doctor” in the video used the phrase “allow a natural death” rather than the phrase “do not resuscitate.” When the latter phrase was used, 61 percent chose for CPR to be performed, but that figure dropped to 49 percent when the phrase “allow a natural death” was used.

Other factors had little effect. Expressions of sympathy from the “doctor,” being shown a photo of the loved one, or being asked to think about the choice from the perspective of the loved one all made little or no difference in the choice.

 

What Do LGBT Couples Need to Know About Power of Attorney?

Thursday, April 12th, 2012

LGBT couples need to be aware of the legal documents that can protect them in the event of a medical emergency.  Unlike heterosexual married couples, whose rights to visitation and to make medical decisions are unquestioned, LGBT couples – and unmarried heterosexual couples – are not afforded the same rights.  This is why it is essential for couples to understand the importance of power of attorney and living wills.

Many LGBT couples want the right to visit their loved one in the hospital, and want their loved one to have the right to make critical healthcare decisions.  The solution is a living will with healthcare power of attorney.

A living will is a document stating an individual’s wishes in the event of a medical emergency resulting in incapacitation.  A living will explains what procedures one does and does not want in an end-of-life medical situation.  It can contain directions concerning artificial resuscitation, pain medicine and life support procedures.

A healthcare power of attorney document is a way for an individual to appoint another to make those medical decisions.  It has the effect of giving LGBT couples the decision-making rights that are already afforded to heterosexual married couples.

Even gay and lesbian couples who are married in their state need to consider a living will with healthcare power of attorney.  Though a couple may live in a state that recognizes gay marriage, these documents may be of crucial importance when traveling out of state.

What documents are important for LGBT couples:

  • A living will states a person’s wishes in the event of a life-threatening medical emergency
  • A healthcare power of attorney assigns healthcare decision-making power to a particular person

For assistance with questions regarding our legal services, visit our website at http://www.littmankrooks.com/

Difference Between Power of Attorney and Guardianship

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

A power of attorney and guardianship both give an individual or entity the ability to make decisions for another person. But what are the differences?

The power of attorney is a valuable estate planning tool that enables another individual to make financial decisions in your stead at any time, for example, if you become incapacitated or, for some other reason (such as traveling out of the country), are not able to sign necessary documents. The individual, referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” can be a friend, spouse, relative or any other trusted person and may, for instance, be called upon to sell real estate, withdraw money from a bank account, or pay bills. Although you must have capacity at the time you execute your power of attorney, it remains valid in the event that you become incapacitated.

How is guardianship different? Guardianship, which requires court authorization, is only granted when incapacity exists. It encompasses much broader powers than a power of attorney, extending beyond financial decisions to health care and personal affairs, such as routine medical treatment and living arrangements.

With a guardianship, the court will appoint a court evaluator, an impartial person who investigates the issues and reports his findings to the court. The court also conducts a hearing, with witnesses in attendance, during which the court determines whether or not the individual in question needs a guardian and who that guardian should be. Although a friend or family member may petition a court to become someone’s guardian, sometimes the court chooses a financial institution or guardianship agency instead.

To learn more about New York elder law, New York estate planning, visit http://www.elderlawnewyork.com