What Can Happen Without an Advance Directive?”
By Elder Law Attorney Rick Law. Senior Advocate at the Estate Planning Center of Law Elder Law. If an individual has not created a power of attorney and their Alzheimer’s disease has progressed to the point where they’re no longer competent to make health or financial decisions, the family may find themselves in court facing a lengthy, expensive, and often embarrassing court hearing to determine competency. Worse yet, if the patient is found to be incompetent, a guardian will be appointed to tend to the client’s personal and health-care needs. While most states’ laws encourage the courts to appoint family members as guardians, court involvement can be expensive and may impose cumbersome supervision on the patient, the conservator, and guardian. In some cases where the incapacitated patient is in the hospital and does not have a living will or a power of attorney, the attending physician may appoint a surrogate decision maker who would then be authorized to make health-care decisions for the patient. These decisions include whether to forgo life-sustaining treatment. The order of priority for being appointed a surrogate decision maker varies from state to state, but is generally similar to the example below from Illinois: (1) the patient’s guardian of the person; (2) the patient’s spouse; (3) any adult son or daughter of the patient; (4) either parent of the patient; (5) any adult brother or sister of the patient; (6) any adult grandchild of the patient; (7) a close friend of the patient; (8) the patient’s guardian of the estate. Many older adults have stories of doctors and/ or hospital staff that have ignored the refusal of life-prolonging care wishes of a now-deceased loved one. These are instances where they had insisted that their loved one did not want life-prolonging treatment, but nonetheless a doctor ordered feeding tubes, ventilators, and other life-prolonging measures. Recent studies confirm this lack of regard for patients’ preferences in life-sustaining treatment decisions by doctors and hospital staff. If you’re ready to start getting your estate in order and secure your assets for the “worst-case” scenario, please give our office a call at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free. We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family. Call now. Sincerely, Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees. Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future. Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!