Disability Planning: Controlling your Medical & Financial Decisions in the Event of a Disability

DURABLE POWER OF ATTORNEY OR GUARDIANSHIP?

How many of us plan adequately for a lifetime disability? The chances are likely that we will all suffer a debilitating illness, such as a stroke, injury, accident, or Alzheimers, before we die.

Did you know that if you become incapacitated you will become subject to a LIVING PROBATE? It is a common misunderstanding to believe that your spouse, child or relative can act for you during a disability. The truth, however, is that without proper planning, if you cannot make your own decisions or sign your name, a court will. Guardianship and Conservatorship was designed to protect people that could not protect themselves. The Living Probate process is a product of an antiquated court system that is as efficient as the Post Office, has the compassion of the IRS and is as cost effective as the Pentagon.

Imagine a legal proceeding that strips a person of their right to marry, divorce, vote, buy and sell property, to make their own medical and financial decisions, and to decide where to live. Though this sounds draconian, this is exactly what happens when a judge appoints a Guardian or Conservator. Living Probate is a drastic remedy – it is like using a cannon to swat a fly. Fortunately, your family can avoid this nightmarish entanglement.

It is a must for everyone over the age of 18 to establish a Durable Power of Attorney. This is a legal document that allows an individual to delegate financial and medical responsibilities to a trusted child or person, so that if one becomes later disabled, Guardianship and Conservatorship will not be necessary.

It is very simple, instead of dealing with the emotional trauma, financial costs, and the delay of probate court, you will be able to use your efforts to care for your loved ones during their incapacity.

The Guardianship/Conservatorship process through probate court is for the most part optional. It is your choice to do the planning ahead of time through a Durable Power of Attorney or to wait for the court to appoint a Guardian.

END-OF LIFE DECISIONS

Many of us have heard the term “Living Will” as the name of a document used to address our life support wishes. In Michigan, however, under our state statutory laws, we must use something called a “Patient Advocate”. A Patient Advocate is a document in which you appoint an individual to make your end-of-life decisions, in the event that you become unable to make these decisions yourself.

Make sure that you not only have a Patient Advocate, but that it is drafted properly. You need a comprehensive Patient Advocate, one which will cover you in all possible situations. You also want to make sure that your Patient Advocate contains up-to-date provisions. Michigan has passed several new laws, such as the Do-Not-Resuscitate and Hospice Care laws, which may not be reflected in Patient Advocates that were prepared prior to 2000.

Just because Michigan uses a Patient Advocate document, doesn’t mean that all states use a Patient Advocate. In fact, some states use a Living Will, which as previously noted, is not valid in Michigan. Therefore, in order to insure that your termination of life support wishes are carried out, you need to have a document that will cover you in all of the states in which you travel. It is important to understand that if you become incapacitated in another state, Michigan laws do not apply, but rather the laws of the other state apply.

Although it is very easy for most of us to procrastinate, everyone over the age of 18 should have a Patient Advocate. Please remember to discuss your end-of-life wishes with your loved ones to insure that your wishes are followed.

Don’t Procrastinate! Plan for Your Disability.

You can avoid a Guardianship and Conservatorship in Probate Court through a properly drafted Durable Power of Attorney and Patient Advocate.

Plan now while you are competent, otherwise you will not have the option of avoiding probate court in the event of your disability