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Donít Be a Joe or Helen!

By Susan Piette, JD

(Page 2 of 3)

If the son on governmental assistance accepts the inheritance money, he will most likely be disqualified from his governmental assistance and have to reapply after the inheritance money is used up; or he may need to utilize a portion of those funds to establish a type of trust for the funds so that he may continue to receive the governmental assistance and have the inheritance funds supplement not replace his governmental assistance.

2. Fact/Question:

Helen no longer has the mental capacity to execute a power of attorney. What is a power of attorney and why is it so import

Answer: A power of attorney is a legal document that allows one person (the ďprincipalĒ) to grant to another person (the ďagentĒ) the legal authority to make decisions and enter into transactions on the principalís behalf. The legal authority granted can be significant, including the ability to sell or purchase real estate, transfer money, buy or sell securities, make gifts and the like.

A durable power of attorney allows the person you appoint to act in your place now, and when and if you ever become incapacitated. Without a durable power of attorney, no one can represent you unless a court appoints a guardian. That court process takes time, costs money, and the judge may not choose the person you would prefer. In addition, under a guardianship, your representative may have to seek court permission (which might not be granted) to take planning steps that you could implement immediately under a simple durable power of attorney.

Unintended result: Instead of Helen choosing an agent to manage her financial, real estate and other matters via a power of attorney, a court appointed guardian will be needed. Although Helenís daughter may be appointed by the court as her guardian, Helen could have designated her daughter as her agent and saved thousands of dollars in legal fees.

3. Fact/Question:

Helen no longer has the capacity to execute an advance healthcare directive. What is an advance healthcare directive and why is it so important to have one in place?

Answer: An advance healthcare directive is an instruction given by you concerning the medical treatment or care that you would want - or would not want - should circumstances arise where you are no longer capable or competent to give such an instruction. Advance healthcare directives are the best way to ensure that your express wishes for health care are known and honored.

Unintended result: Helenís wishes for her medical treatment and end of life decision may not be followed.


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