This is a common refrain that I hear and one that my trust colleagues do as well.
In today’s blog I would like to discuss the role and importance of naming an Attorney for Personal Care. [Note: Of course this is in addition to naming either a trust company, which is my preference or another person as the attorney for property].
As I work with many older individuals who have NOT appointed an attorney for Personal Care, for fear of ‘not wanting to burden anyone’, instead of actually being helpful or considerate, the opposite occurs. Without having someone named, most organizations including financial institutions may be put in a very difficult position. Friends or family who may present themselves as ‘wanting to help’ actually have no legal authority to do so and are not able to make personal care decisions on your behalf, should you no longer be deemed ‘capable’. The role of the attorney for personal care is a very important one as this is the individual who makes decisions on your behalf, when you are no longer capable to do so for yourself.
I recently met with two new clients who were both single women in their mid- 70’s. They both lived alone in their own condos and had retired from well-paying jobs. There were reaching out to Elder Caring Inc. to help guide them in thinking about and planning for a time when they would be less capable (both mentally and physically) of managing their own day to day needs. Thankfully, they are both planners and were being proactive. Neither of these women had children nor close blood relatives on whom they could rely. Our conversation soon focused on the important paperwork and in particular the importance of the power of attorney documents. This was problematic for both and neither felt that there was anyone who stood out, who could or would assume this role. There were concerned that their friends were the same age and many were struggling with their own health challenges and they did not want to add to their load.
Over the last many years, we have worked with many older single women and like these two ladies, the issue of who to name as their attorney for personal care had been of concern. Fortunately a trust company can be named for property and this can alleviate a lot of worry and apprehension. However, for personal care, this is not an option. In several cases the older individual contracted with a neighbor to fill the role as attorney for personal care with the understanding that the neighbor would be named in their will as a major beneficiary. This had not worked out well for them. Other times, there was no one named and the Office of the Public Guardian and Trustee had to step in. This did not always work out well either.
Other times I have seen several friends appointed who could share the responsibility and I think that ‘sharing the caring’ among friends may be the preferred route. Our team is often asked to work with the attorney (attorneys) and be their eyes and legs. Knowledgeable and professional care managers are doing the groundwork, navigating the health care systems, identifying resources and helping the attorneys to make an informed choice once they know the options available. I believe this is of great assistance and through continued education we are seeing more and more proactive individuals getting their important paperwork in place and feeling confident about their futures.