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Eldercare Preparation: Legal Power to Make Decisions - Aging Wisely

Aging Wisely’s Director of Communications, Shannon Martin, has recently served as an expert guest on the Boomer Nation! radio show, offering advice to caregivers of seniors. The first show focused on preparing for caregiving and aging. Shannon pointed out that one of the important things we can all do to prepare for aging (or an emergency/accident) and the possibility that someone may have to make decisions on our behalf, is to execute necessary legal documents.

Why is advance planning so important?

These documents better enable your loved ones to step in and help you at a time when you cannot speak for yourself or need help managing your affairs. You can exercise control over who you want making those decisions…and hopefully have conversations with them about your preferences. This is a gift to your loved ones, as they may face a lot of headaches and more costly options if you are not properly prepared.

What documents do I need?

In general, the documents to consider when talking about planning are the durable power of attorney (for managing financial and practical affairs), the healthcare surrogate or healthcare power of attorney (sometimes integrated with the first), and a living will (specifically covering certain end of life care). You should consult with your attorney about the necessary documents, as well as additional estate planning documents such as a will and trust that may be needed for your situation. An experienced attorney can guide you through drafting documents to best meet your needs and understanding your options.

What else should I consider in helping someone to make decisions on my behalf?

Help your loved ones by talking to them about your wishes. You may even wish to draft a letter or document with details about your wishes and feelings on such matters as end of life care. While not a legally binding document, this can provide tremendous guidance and comfort to a loved one. You may suggest that they seek out professional help, such as maintaining a relationship with your current financial advisor or seeking a care assessment from a professional geriatric care manager.

Think through the practical matters and try to determine the best way to set things up to ensure your family members can assist you when needed. Talk to your attorney about any family conflicts or concerns you have so that he/she can make suggestions and help you plan properly.

To read more about these documents and the rules governing them in the state of Florida:

Florida Power of Attorney Statute (Florida Ch. 709)

Healthcare Advance Directives (Florida Ch. 765)

Chapter 709 has been significantly ammended via Senate Bill 670 (effective October 1, 2011). You may wish to review these changes with your attorney. Though Power of Attorneys executed prior to the law will be effective if valid under the current law of the time, many of the provisions will apply to use of all Power of Attorneys. For providers who are in the position of accepting these documents, there are some very important changes to understand to ensure you are in compliance with the law.

Contact us for help, including eldercare advice, referrals to professional advisors, and care management assessements.

Listen to our Director of Communication, Shannon Martin, on Boomer Nation Radio Show discussing how to prepare for caregiving and to age wisely:

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