Lessons Learned About Life Care Planning – An Anecdote
I just returned from three great days at Disney World with my daughter. It’s great to be a kid and see the world through a child’s eyes – ah the wonder and joy. Have you ever noticed how almost every Disney movie begins with something tragic happening but ends happily ever after? If real life was only that simple. We can have dreams and be prepared for reality at the same time. “How do I do this?” you say. Simple – read my top 10 list below:
1. Cindy’s father fell ill while he was married to her step-mother and he was unable to pay the servants and make other financial decisions. Cindy’s step-mother thought she could handle his finances because they were married. Wrong. Simply being married does not mean you can make financial decisions for your spouse when he/she is incapacitated unless your name is on the asset. You will need a well drafted Durable Power of Attorney to avoid a court ordered guardianship.
2. While Princess Maria lived with the little people she signed a durable power of attorney (DPOA) that was very brief and non-specific about the agents’ authority. The financiers in town would not honor the DPOA after Princess Maria bit the poison apple and fell into a deep sleep. True. The financial institutions don’t want to risk liability in honoring a Durable Power of Attorney that is vague. In Florida a Durable Power of Attorney must specifically identify certain types of powers (which must also be initialed) such as: gifting; creating or amending a trust; selling real estate, just to name a few.
3. While Princess Maria was incapacitated the financiers required her agents to sign an affidavit stating that Princess Maria is still alive and that she has not revoked the DPOA. Yes financial institutions can require this before they honor the Durable Power of Attorney.
4. Once Princess Maria and Prince Stephen get married they sign a Durable Powers of Attorney naming each other as financial agent. The title to the castle is in Prince Stephen’s name alone. When Prince Stephen becomes incapacitated Princess Maria can use his DPOA to sell some of the adjacent land, make gifts (to herself and the little people), and create a trust for her husband to avoid probate when he dies. Princess Maria can only take these actions if her husband’s Durable Power of Attorney specifically gives these types of authority.
5. Tabitha, age 19, made a deal with the sea witch (which you should never do because no matter how good the deal sounds there is no such thing as a free lunch). She gave the sea witch her voice and in exchange became human. When Tabitha became sick her father the King tried to make Tabitha’s medical decisions but the hospital would not allow it. In Florida our children are legally adults at age 18. As parents we cannot make medical or financial decisions for them unless they have signed a Durable Power of Attorney and a Designation of Health Care Surrogate. Get these documents in place once your child graduates high school and before they leave for college.
6. The enchantress severely injures the prince while he is trying to save the fair maiden. The fair maiden weeps not knowing what to do since she and the prince never talked about getting old. As difficult as it may for any of us to face our mortality, making a Living Will that specifies our end-of-life preferences is a godsend to our families.
7. Ming cuts her hair, dons her father’s armor and leaves her home in the Orient to join the army to fight against nomadic tribes. Before leaving she meets with the town attorney and makes a Durable Power of Attorney. Her parents are allowed to use her Durable Power of Attorney while she is away even though she is not incapacitated. In Florida a Durable Power of Attorney is effective as soon as it is signed. A copy is as effective as the original. So, carefully choose a trusted person and decide where to keep the original until it is needed.
8. Rose dreams of opening up a restaurant in New Orleans. It was a dream she shared with her father who is no longer alive. Her mother, who is aging, becomes incapacitated and never signed a Designation of Health Care Surrogate because in her culture they do not see the necessity of legal documents. Many cultures have their own rules about who makes decisions for someone who is incapacitated. However, in the United States it is best to have a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and a Durable Power of Attorney that name trustworthy people to make those decisions and avoid the expense associated with a guardianship.
9. Rebecca meets and falls in love with John. Rebecca’s father is suspicious of John because he sees him exploiting the environment and taking natural riches. The tribal chief decides it is safer to give Rebecca a Durable Power of Attorney instead of putting her name on his assets in the event of his incapacity. When we add a person’s name onto our accounts (or other assets) legally they become a joint owner. If that joint owner experiences unforeseen events such as a divorce, accident or a bankruptcy the joint assets will be subject to the joint owners creditors. It is safer to give a Durable Power of Attorney because the agent you name does not become the owner of your assets.
10. Agatha is the eldest of 4 children of the King and Queen. Her three brothers are minors and she is an adult. The King has two brothers that would like to take over the kingdom as soon as the King is incapacitated. The King signs a designation of pre-need guardian naming Agatha. When the king becomes incapacitated there is a fight for control over the kingdom. If you anticipate that your children or other family members will fight to control your assets or, will try to take your assets when you are incapacitated, then signing a declaration of pre-need guardian will create a presumption that the court must appoint the person you name in the document to be your guardian.
I hope you enjoyed my blog. Remember: Proper Planning May Create Peace of Mind. Have a great and safe Memorial Day holiday weekend.