By Jeff S. Barganier, JD
If you are destined to become a person of responsibility for an aging parent – or anyone for that matter – you should insist they provide you with the appropriate legal document: a General and Durable Power of Attorney. The absence of this important writing, especially during any period of incapacity, will surely make your life miserable, consuming your time and forcing you to resort to a court for proper authority to act in behalf of your loved one.
Incapacity often occurs without warning. In a day or even within hours you can be caught up in a whirlwind and charged with making very difficult decisions that are time sensitive, emotional and momentous in terms of the future health and financial welfare of the person you’re caring for. Needless to say, these same events can affect your health and financial affairs in the absence of proper authority to access accounts and conduct transactions as needed without having to tap your personal resources.
Recently, my client made a routine “just touching base” phone call to her mother. She found her self trying to communicate with an elderly woman struggling to communicate via very slurred speech. Within hours, my client was in an emergency room in another city. The doctors ran tests but everything appeared normal. That was on a Friday evening. They were told to come back on Monday. The very next morning, her mother couldn’t speak at all and was nearly comatose. Fortunately, my client had the presence of mind to seek the help of the Jackson Hospital Stroke Center in Montgomery. As of this writing, her mother is recovering but still experiences significant disorientation and communication is strained.
One thing the client has learned from this harrowing experience is that bankers, doctors, lawyers, investment advisors, postmasters, and the like, do not suddenly appear on the scene and proffer their services. Reality is quite the contrary. A caregiver must be aggressive and proactive from the start, anticipating the unexpected and asking questions. “Mr. Investment Advisor, how is Mom positioned? What is her exposure to volatility? Is this event in her life a reason to modify her investment strategy? Mr. Banker, a statement is missing from Mom’s records. Can you provide me with the missing statement please? Mr. Police Chief, will you alert your patrol officers that my Mom’s home is unoccupied and what security precautions do you recommend? Miss Real Estate agent, I may need to list the house for sale.”
My client quickly learned that her mother’s assets were exposed to an increasingly volatile market environment that threatened funds needed for her care. The first question she was asked by the financial advisor was: “Do you have a General and Durable Power of Attorney?” Fortunately, she did; and she was able to immediately transfer assets into a money market fund from stock mutual funds just a day or two before the market tanked.
Don’t be caught in the untenable position of having to wait to make critical decisions. Get your ducks in a row today if you face the responsibility of elder care decisions in the future! After all, the future is only minutes away.
Jeff S. Barganier is an attorney, writer and entrepreneur.
Jeff S. Barganier
43 Bridge Street, Pike Road, AL 36064
Guest Blog Post For Red Oak Legal, PC