Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Powers of Attorney / Guardianships -- For the Elderly and the Young

Planning for the future should include a BIG reality -- there may come a time when you cannot manage your finances or your medical yourself.  Who WILL manage your affairs? 

'Powers of Attorney' documents, (both Medical and Financial) created and not revoked, give a named "Agent" the power to manage your finances and/or medical information and your care needs when you are unable (incapacitated) to manage these things for yourself. 

Elderly persons often become incapacitated (due to illness, dementia, stroke, or sudden crisis); young persons can have this happen as well (primarily due to accidents, but also as a result of life-long developmental disablity).  Adult children (over 18) with a developmental disability are still "legal adults" in PA when they turn 18.  Do not assume that just because you are their parent that you continue to have parental-guardianship rights after they turn 18! 

Often people have no Power of Attorney document.  What happens then? 

In Pennsylvania, and most other jurisdictions, the law provides for a Guardianship or Conservatorship -- obtained through filing a Petition with the Court to have the person in question declared "incapacitated" (or, sometimes referred to as "incompetent").  Then, someone is appointed by the Court to look after the persons' affairs -- both personal (including medical decisions) and financial.  It's good to know that this option exists -- but better still to have a POA drafted by a competent attorney who will review your estate, your needs and your present situation and include those functions in your POA document that are most appropriate for meeting all of your particular needs!  An attorney whose practice includes drafting these documents can also advise you as to whether or not the person in question has the requisite capacity to understand and sign such a document. 

My office can assist you with these important documents -- whether it be a POA or should you find that you must obtain a Guardianship, we are prepared to assist you and your loved one with that important legal task.