John spent 20 years working for the same company. Always in at 8 am, always finished at 4 pm, rarely missing a day’s work, except for the birth of his son Danny, and that one annoying fender bender.
Everyone who knew John knew his favorite saying: “It’s better to be lucky than good.” And John did feel lucky. That is, until a brain injury nearly cost him his life. John watched helplessly as his medical bills mounted and, when he learned he would recover in a nursing home to the tune of $8000 monthly, it nearly put an end to his positive outlook. How would he continue caring for Danny as a single Dad? What would happen to his job?
Then John’s mother asked a crucial question. “Hey, what about those legal papers you drew up when Danny was born?”
How an Estate Planning Attorney Can Help
Mom was right. Ten years prior, John had visited an estate planning attorney in St. Louis, Missouri, and together they created a Will, a Living Will, a Power of Attorney and other important legal documents. John recalled that the Power of Attorney would allow someone he trusted to make decisions and pay bills on his behalf if he needed help managing his affairs. And the Guardianship agreement would help John’s family care for Danny too.
What about you? Do you think “that day will never come”? According to the National Trauma Institute, US Hospitals see more than 41 million emergency department visits and 2.3 million hospital admissions yearly. Brain trauma alone accounts for more than 30% of all deaths…to say nothing of temporary and permanent disabilities.
The Power of Attorney & Durable Power Of Attorney
The legal document known as a Power of Attorney allows you to designate someone you trust – the “agent” – to handle your affairs if you become unable, but not incapacitated. As the “principal”, you decide the level of authority you wish to grant. Your agent may have power only to sign checks, make bank deposits, and so forth. Or you might want your agent to handle more detailed financial issues, like transferring property or creating trusts.
Along with the Power of Attorney, your estate planning lawyer will suggest the creation of another document, the Durable Power of Attorney, which extends the agent’s power in the event you do become incapacitated – for example, if you are in a coma. When the Durable Power of Attorney goes into effect, the Power of Attorney becomes invalid. Regardless of the powers you give to your agent, he or she is prohibited from making or revoking your will or living will.
In Missouri, a Guardian is an individual appointed by the Probate Court, rather than chosen by you, with special authority to make decisions about your care and custody if you become incapacitated. Guardianship requires a court petition and a hearing, during which time you likely lose the right to decide things like where to live, which medical treatment to receive, and so forth. The guardian is required by law to make annual reports to the court regarding your status. Overall, the guardian must:
- Protect you – for example, ensuring you take medications prescribed.
- Prevent serious injury, illness or disease – for example, ensuring you eat properly.
- Provide a safe and clean shelter for you.
These issues are highly complex. In St. Louis, Missouri, the knowledge estate planning attorneys at Quinn Estate & Elder Law are prepared to assist you in protecting your future. Please contact the firm to learn more.