When making considerations for your aging loved ones, legal matters are of the utmost importance. It can be difficult to discuss these topics; however, if your loved one are aging and entering their final stages of life, these decisions are critical to have in place. If you’re beginning discussions about eldercare services with your elderly or aging loved ones, this is a good opportunity to discuss legal decisions as well.

There are many laws in place that are designed to protect seniors as they physically and mentally decline. Elder law covers issues from social security to guardianship, healthcare, fraud, estate planning and wills, and decisions about what happens with one’s assets when they are gone.

Here are some of the most important considerations to be aware of:

Advance Healthcare Directives
These documents outline what medical care and interventions a person will receive should they be unable to make these decisions for themselves, in the event of serious illness or incapacitation. These directives are used to help guide your family and health care team to make decisions for care when you no longer can. There are two forms of an advance directives: a living will, and a durable power of attorney for healthcare. A living will provides instructions for the types of services that should be provided and at what time, such as the use of life saving treatments like CPR. A durable power of attorney for healthcare appoints someone to make decisions on their behalf should they be prevented from doing so.

Power of Attorney
Power of attorney is a legal document authorizing someone to act on behalf of another in various matters, such as legal, financial, or medical. There are several different types of power of attorney that may be granted.

  • General POA: Gives complete control over the senior’s affairs. A general power of attorney handles all financial aspects and can make all decisions on their behalf. This encompasses things like paying bills, operating a business for them, speaking in court on their behalf. These usually come into play when a person no longer has the capacity to act on their own behalf.
  • Healthcare POA: This grants the authority to make medical decisions on their behalf. This can include decisions such as healthcare facilities, medications, surgeries, and other procedures. It is a good idea to have arrangements in place for a healthcare power of attorney before a senior’s health declines completely and they are no longer capable of making these decisions for themselves.
  • Springing POA: This gives your agent the ability to act only when a specific condition is met. When used for estate planning, this is typically met when you’re incapacitated and no longer able to make your own decisions. At this point, your appointed agent “springs” into effect.
  • Financial POA: A Financial power of attorney is a special or limited type of POA which allows your agent to act on your behalf only on specific matters. In this case, it might include things like paying bills, making bank deposits or withdrawals, selling or renting property, and filing taxes.

Living Will
Like a healthcare power of attorney, a living will deals with one’s medical concerns should they no longer be physically or mentally able to advocate for themselves. While a healthcare POA grants the ability for someone the senior trusts to make decisions, in a living will the senior writes their medical wishes down while they are still cognizant, in anticipation for when they’re no longer able to make these decisions. Different states have different requirements for filing a living will, and an attorney can help you through the process.

Guardianship or Conservatorship
If an elderly person is no longer capable of making decisions for themselves but have not given power of attorney or other permissions to someone else, a guardian or conservator may be appointed for them. The court may appoint a trusted family member or friend to make decisions on the senior’s behalf, or if there is no one able to take on that responsibility a professional guardian may be appointed.

Working with a trusted professional on these matters can help make sure that you’re being protected and not being exploited during your most vulnerable times. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to know who to trust. That’s why our team works with a trusted network of professionals who only have your best interest in mind. Contact us today at (920) 740-8441 or email us at sue@coylecaremanagement.com to learn more about how we can help you and your situation. The best time to plan for these needs are when you are in good health, so we often work with younger individuals to help with care management planning, in addition to older adults and their families.