Am I Too Young for an Estate Plan or Long Term Care Plan? Part 2
In my blog post last week I talked about a scenario we are seeing with increasing frequency. We have had a number of what we call crisis calls relating to a family member who has experienced a sudden onset of injury or illness causing the need for long term care – at a younger age than you would typically think of as needing long term care. This might be because of a stroke, a brain aneurysm or a traumatic brain injury from a car accident.
Decisions need to be made concerning health care. Without a health care directive, this immediately becomes problematic – especially if the patient is single. If married, hospitals will often take direction from a spouse – at least temporarily in emergencies, but eventually a legal document authorizing that person to make decisions is needed. In the case of an unmarried patient, there may be multiple family members willing or insisting on making decisions. But without a signed document by the patient, these individuals legally can’t act.
Very quickly in a crisis, financial decisions need to be made as well about how to pay for care and what accounts need to be accessed to pay the bills. A power of attorney needs to be in place. If not, financial institutions will not take direction from anyone and accounts will remain out of reach. Unlike hospitals, banks will not take direction under any circumstances from any individual without a power of attorney which will be scrutinized by its legal department to determine if the action to be taken by the agent is expressly authorized in the document.
Patients with young children are especially vulnerable without these documents because the children are dependent upon the parent to care for them as well. The lack of a plan now affects more than just the patient.
If the patient is not competent, then the only option is a court proceeding to appoint a guardian for the patient and possibly the young children – if there is not another parent able to act for the children. Court action is intrusive, expensive and time consuming. A judge must review any application to be guardian and often will need to review specific decisions before they are made.
Next week I’ll explain what I mean.