Who Makes Decisions for Me If I Can’t?
The power of the individual is an idea that remains central to all of us. Relying on others is often portrayed as a weakness in character. A full life will have peaks and valleys that need to be navigated. A support system built on the people who care about you can and should be relied upon. This is not weakness. It is how a family survives life’s most difficult challenges.
In those moments where your physical or mental health is compromised decisions will be made without your direct input. We may not be able to plan for a specific medical emergency, but we can choose the people we would like directing our health care and ensuring our finances are properly managed.
A Health Care Proxy is the person who makes health care decisions when we are unable to. A signed Health Care Proxy form witnessed by two people allows someone of your choosing to consent to medical procedures, handle discharges and placement as well as access any and all relevant medical information.
Power of Attorney forms, whether the New York Statutory Short Form or Bank-specific forms authorize individuals that you select to handle your finances, obtain statements, assist with asset transfers and protection for estate and long-term health care purposes.
Health Care Proxy and Power of Attorney forms allow you to decide who you want to make decisions on your behalf should an illness or accident occur. This type of planning is wholly within your control. In the absence of these completed documents, New York State has a set of laws designed to appoint decisionmakers and guardians to make decisions that involve healthcare and finances. In 2010, New York established the Family Healthcare Decisions Act which allows for a surrogate healthcare decisionmaker to be appointed with the order of priority being: 1. Guardian, 2. Spouse, 3. Adult Child, 4. Parent, 5. Sibling, 6. Close Friend. Article 81 Guardianships may be brought by an interested party seeking to become Guardian of the Person and/or the Property. The issue is that you may not want this person to be in charge of your affairs. In this case your loss of control would include the physical or mental limitations you are experiencing plus having the wrong person looking out for your interests.
Even if a support system is not as robust as one would like, a combination of family and friends may be brought together to establish a workable plan. The maintenance of relationships can be arduous at times and some people in our lives may bring more stress than comfort, but going it alone can be especially difficult as we age. Leaving things to chance is not a recipe for success when you are at your most vulnerable.
Reach out to the professionals at Sloan and Feller today for more information on planning options.