5 Top Questions to Consider when Choosing a Power of Attorney – Dana Lambert
Much of the conflict we work with surrounds families who are not in agreement about care needs, and/or legal and financial matters for Mom and Dad, or other family members. I do not find this surprising in the least. What does constantly shock me is that Mom and Dad are surprised that their children are not in agreement.
Mind you, these (or you) are the same parents who listened to the bickering in the back seat of the station wagon about where the middle line was and whose feet were crossing it, and who was taking more than their share of time in the bathroom.
The children grow up, maybe one goes into sales and the other into education, and their worldviews grow in different directions, and perhaps they each moved out of state.
Of course the family gets together a couple of times a year for holidays, and everyone seems to enjoy being together, and they both love Mom and Dad.
Perhaps each adult child will each inherit 50% of the estate someday, naming them together as Powers of Attorney seems like the logical thing to do, right? And to avoid any flavor of favoritism, go ahead and name each of them Powers of Attorney for Healthcare Decisions too.
When you choose powers of attorney, you are selecting who you want to make decisions on your behalf, in your inability, on matters of health care, legal and finance. It is your responsibility to let them know, in very clear and uncertain terms, what your desires are and would be. Don’t leave them to act blind. Talk in depth about your values and priorities, for your
- your health
- and quality of life.
Then, ask them if they can support and promote those wishes. If they say no, keep searching for someone who can.
- What is the nature of the adult relationship of my children with each other? How is it the same or different from their childhood relationship?
- Do they have spouses who support their decisions or place pressure on them and try to sway or control them? Do one or both of them have persistent financial needs/debts?
- What is their problem-solving capacity and ability to compromise? Is there a rigid personality who has historically been unable to compromise? Is one of the children easily swayed, finding it hard to stand on their own beliefs?
- Do you truly believe that each child has the desire and ability to put you and your needs first, above their own desires, finances or personal beliefs, when making decisions about your care and keeping?
And finally, the most important question:
5. Is it unreasonable to put them in charge of making decisions on your behalf, from care needs to managing your finances, when they will stand to inherit what is left over someday?
Powers of Attorney who also stand to inherit from the estate are tasked with the challenge of putting the needs of the individual ahead of their own personal need or desire for the potential financial gain from the estate, upon dissolution of the estate.
For some, the decisions for the best care for Mom or Dad come easy, and without second thought. For others, perhaps financial need or a controlling spouse make it really hard to make such decisions. There is a temptation to try to find cheaper options and ways to cut corners.
These are tough issues.
If you have answers to these questions take them to your attorney, and talk them over with him or her. If not, call us. We can help you work through all the dynamics of family, future needs and decision-making, and then you will know the best direction to go for you and your family.