Q: I’m worried about getting dementia. Do I need to protect myself from my future self?
A: That’s a good thought. Some of my clients worry about their power of attorney being misused, so they don’t want to sign it. But it’s really risky to wait until just before you have dementia to sign your power of attorney. You might forget! If you do suffer from dementia, one of the symptoms is often paranoia, and if you were convinced that everybody is out to get you, the last thing you would want to do is sign a power of attorney to let them do it legally! And if your judgment is impaired, you might pick the wrong person – we all have heard stories of frail elders who have appointed exploitive caregivers or manipulative children in their power of attorney. Even if none of this happens, if you don’t have a power of attorney, nobody will be able to find out whether your mortgage or electric bill is being paid – your power could be cut off and nobody might know that it had happened or why, especially if you were receiving bills electronically. And, to end this parade of horribles, if things get totally out of hand, your situation might end up in front of a Court, and your situation in the hands of a judge who doesn’t know you or your family. Instead of this risk, you should sign your powers of attorney; and if you’re worried about them being misused, or about “losing control,” just lock them up in your safe – but be sure that the right person knows where the papers are kept “if something happens” to you, and how to get into that place.
Q: My child is 18 and leaving for college. Is there anything I need to do?
A: You should definitely make sure your child has a financial and medical power of attorney in place. Since your child is 18, you have no right to medical or other information and can’t authorize medical treatment without a written power of attorney. The documents are pretty straightforward. Most of my young clients name their parents as their medical surrogate decision-maker and agent under power of attorney. Parents are often named “concurrently,” that is, both are authorized to act, but either can act independently of the other. This assumes, of course, that the parents get along, at least with regard to their child’s well-being. This is often the child’s first exposure to the legal system, and we try to make it positive.
Attorney Tim Barkley
The Tim Barkley Law Offices
One Park Avenue
P.O. Box 1136
Wills & Trusts | Estate Planning | Probates & Estates
Elder Law | Real Estate | Business Planning