Protect Your Parents – Before Incapacity Strikes

Your parent is suddenly critically ill, in the hospital, and unable to make medical or financial decisions. Without your help, bills won’t be paid and the appropriate nursing care might not be received…. But you don’t technically have a right to make those decisions, so you first have to endure a tedious court process to gain conservatorship.

Outdoor Portrait Of Loving Senior CoupleReading the above fictional scenario, you might find yourself wondering whether there is any way to avoid such a situation. There is, but like most things in life, preventing the problem is much easier than solving it after the fact.

As your parents age, talk to them about including these documents in their estate plan. If they become ill or begin to show signs of dementia or Alzheimer’s, check again to be sure these documents are in place. If not, you might need to work a bit harder on persuading them, before  an illness becomes so serious that court action is needed.

Power of Attorney. In California, we have two main types of Power of Attorney Documents: The Statutory Durable Power of Attorney, and the Springing Durable Power of Attorney. These documents each carry confer specific responsibilities and protections to both you and your parents, and often people choose to include both in their estate plans for extra protection.

If your parents choose a Springing Durable Power of Attorney, written documentation of incapacity (generally from treating physician) will be required before your responsibilities and their protection officially begin. Some people prefer this option but it is important to note that this extra step will be required by law.

Healthcare documents. You and your parents should also consider two documents related to healthcare. An Advance Health Care Directive will allow your parents to state their wishes regarding end of life care, organ donations, and other related matters, and grant the person of their choice the ability to oversee these decisions. A HIPAA Authorization will allow you (or the person of their choice) access to all medical records and status updates.

Financial considerations.  While a Power of Attorney will grant you (or someone else) the ability to make certain financial decisions on your parents’ behalf, it doesn’t cover everything related to assets or help avoid a California Probate proceeding upon death. Various types of trusts can help with regard to managing assets, and your parents should discuss their specific needs carefully with our estate planning attorney before coming to a decision.

Again, it is best to meet with an estate planning attorney before a serious illness or incapacity strikes. However, if you do find yourself in that unfortunate situation with an aging parent, we can still offer you the compassionate, expert guidance you seek. Give us a call, and we will meet with you and your parents to discuss your options to protect their medical, legal, and financial interests.


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