You Can’t Choose Your Family BUT You Can Choose Your Friends (and your POA)

August 16, 2011; By: Audrey Miller
All About Estates

Have you ever wondered what would happen if you didn’t have a family member who could assume the role of power of attorney for care and finance? Who would look after your best interests and keep your personal wishes at the forefront?

Family doesn’t have to be the first choice when it comes to making the important and difficult decision of who will be your power of attorney for care and finance. Friends are often an overlooked factor in this important equation.

Friends might know things about you that you weren’t comfortable or able to share with family; they often live in the same city; have shared a number of life experiences and they can often be closer than blood relatives.

We have worked with a number clients who have chosen a friend or more than one friend to assume the role of Power of Attorney, both for care and finance. Even when family is available, they may not be the most appropriate choice and if there is any doubt as to whose interests they are serving, than better to rethink things. As Geriatric Care Managers, who understand the implications and needs of the older adult, we have been asked to work along side the power of attorney to help explore options, present pros and cons and advice as to next steps. The decision remains with the attorney but most times, having a thorough understanding of the health care system and community resources, is not their area of expertise.

Let me share a recent case history.
Our client was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (a debilitating disease of the central nervous system) over 30 years ago. A few years ago before the POA was enacted, (and before our involvement) the client was living alone without in-home supports and was struggling to complete his activities of daily living. Finances were out of control and no longer term planning had commenced. Once the support network and POA’s were enacted, (in this case there were three friends who had been chosen as the attorneys), there were several meetings and many financial and health related issues were reviewed and decisions made, with one of our social workers/Geriatric Care Managers guiding the process. The POAs have worked closely together, with each other and with their friend in order to make sure his care and financial needs were being well addressed both at the present time and for tomorrow. Without this, the client would not have been able to thrive or enjoy the same quality of life they had become accustomed to.

Lesson to remember: It is important to make sure you have selected the best and most appropriate people to be your POA for care and finance. I encourage you to have an open dialogue with family and friends about your wishes and to start your future planning now.

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