A good lawyer helps you and your family navigate the court system, and that’s a great thing if that’s what you need. But preventative lawyering can help you and your family avoid entanglements in the court system in the first place.
Our firm is currently enmeshed in excruciating legal intricacies, representing families in the court-administered guardianship system, simply because a parent didn’t sign a power of attorney. A properly-drafted power of attorney avoids guardianship proceedings, with concomitant expenses, fees, delays and headache. It’s so simple, but so often overlooked.
More than the monetary outlay and disruption of schedule – when your spouse is trying to take care of you – the formalities of the guardianship system impose obligations on your family to value assets, quantify and track expenditures – saving all receipts, even the little purchases at the grocery store, and submitting them to the Court for approval – and segregate assets. Your assets become guardianship assets. They aren’t family assets anymore.
Guardianship assets can’t be used for family expenses without a court order. That can be catastrophic if your stay-at-home spouse was depending on your 401(k) to pay family bills, and it’s demeaning and grating to your spouse to have to ask permission to pay the usual recurrent household expenses from your guardianship assets, when before the guardianship they were always meant to be family assets.
Sometimes the parent is just too busy to think about documents. Sometimes they don’t trust the lawyers in the first place. And sometimes they don’t trust their families. But making time to make the right decision is the right thing to do. And even if you don’t trust your family, deep down in your heart of hearts, they are your default guardians, and lawyers will be guiding them through the court system at your expense. The choice is to trust a judge to choose among the people you don’t trust or sign the document and make your own choice among those same people.
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates
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