Monday, July 8, 2013

Typical Senior Legal Agreements Explained

Legal choices for seniors can be complicated. The words used to choose direct care and give power to someone to choose where, when and how are confusing. Perhaps these terms can help you with an understanding of common agreements.

Advance Directives – Written instructions for health and wealth decisions when a person becomes incapacitated or is unable to take care of him or herself.
Living Will – A living will is one option when writing advance directives. This usually includes a Do Not Resuscitate clause (DNR) that tells medical professionals whether to use extraordinary efforts to keep a person alive or not.
Power of Attorney – Power of Attorney is stated in a living will. It gives someone (usually a loved one) the legal right to make financial decisions for the person incapacitated. This agreement does not allow them to make all decisions, see legal guardian below.
Medical Power of Attorney – Also, stated in the living will, this gives the person designated the power to make medical decisions for the person incapacitated, not financial decisions.
Legal Guardian – A legal guardian is an adult given the right, by the loved one or the court, to make decisions for the individual both financially and in care. Sometimes a legal guardian has power over just assets or care.

IncompetenceThere are approximately 5 steps in having someone declared incompetent. First, you must get guardianship papers from the probate court in the area where the person lives and then appoint a guardian for that person. Second, you must obtain an attorney to file the legal documents required. Third, you must have an expert opinion as to whether the person is not capable of making his or her own 
decisions rationally. Next, the statement from the expert must be filed with the application for a decision. After that there is a court date set for the Probate Court judge to determine from the evidence presented, whether the person is to be deemed incompetent. 
Normally people with Alzheimer's disease or a related dementia must be deemed incompetent before someone can act on their behalf to make all decisions for them.

It is important to take advance directives seriously and not wait until they cannot be drafted. As a caregiver, you may take on the responsibility of Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney or Legal Guardian, knowing what you is expected of you is crucial in keeping your loved one in good hands and with good care. Also as many of these agreements feature an expiry date, be sure to check that they are current, otherwise they may be unenforceable. Read the documents carefully to be sure that the person signing the lease (if its not the resident) for your services indeed has authority to do so, otherwise the agreement might be worthless.