People believe that when they get married they will grow old with their spouse. Each partner will be there as they age together to take care of and support the other partner. Unfortunately, both divorce and death change that idyllic future.
If you are contemplating a divorce, are in the midst of a divorce or are divorced, you need to rethink the documents you have executed during your marriage appointing your spouse your proxy. If you never executed such documents, now is the time to decide who you will rely upon in the future to take care of your financial and medical decisions if the time comes that you are unable to do so.
The documents to which I am referring are your Power of Attorney for Banking and Property Management, Proxy Directive for Health Care Decisions, Living Will and HIPAA Release and Authorization.
The Power of Attorney for Banking and Property Management (POA) gives another person the authorization to make financial decisions on your behalf. In the POA you can set forth the exact parameters of the power you are giving your attorney-in-fact or you can give him/her the power to make all the decisions you yourself are able to make. You can also establish when the POA becomes effective and if your attorney-in-fact can execute his/her authority immediately or only upon a disability. You can also define disability.
The Proxy Directive for Health Decisions appoints your medical proxy and gives your proxy power to make medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to communicate.
A Living Will is a guide to be used by your health care proxy in making those decisions. It sets forth the choices you would make for your own medical treatment in various medical situations. If you do not have a health care proxy, the Living Will acts a guide for your physicians.
A HIPAA Release and Authorization is a release to medical facilities and personnel to enable them to tell those family and friends listed in the authorization your medical condition. Without this document, medical personnel are forbidden to release any such information even to family.
People tend not to deal with these issues as they tend not to want to deal with their Last Will and Testament. It makes one think about end of life issues, which can be scary and painful. If you have difficulty dealing with these decisions, are concerned about discussing these issues with family members, are afraid of hurting your children’s feelings by choosing one over the other, family mediation may be the best solution. In family mediation, all family members meet with the mediator together and together work out the answers that will enable you to go forward with preparing these documents.
If your spouse has died, you face the same challenges as a divorced person in relation to these documents. Family mediation is available to assist you also.
For those of you who do not have children or family to fill the roles of proxies, I suggest reading Yale Hauptman’s blog, “Do You Have a Natural Support System?” at http://www.hauptmanlaw.com/new-jersey-long-term-care-planning/do-you-have-a-natural-support-system.
I am available to assist you as a family mediator and look forward to hearing from you.