The information in this column is not intended as legal advice but to provide a general understanding of the law. Any readers with a legal problem, including those whose questions are addressed here, should consult an attorney for advice on their particular circumstances.
In previous columns, I explained the importance of having a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and a Directive to Physicians, Family and Surrogates (commonly referred to as a Living Will). While I often advise clients on the benefits of these instruments, I want to stress the importance of these documents if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer Dementia. Having personally lived with the effects of dementia with my father, I can tell you this is a very difficult disease. Planning should be done as soon as possible if you have been diagnosed or if you have been told you have early symptoms of Alzheimer Dementia because you must be of sound mind when you execute these documents. This will require a note or letter from your doctor verifying your ability to sign documents of this nature.
Alzheimer is a crippling disease that can progress very quickly. It requires specialized care, and in some instances, around the clock supervision. If you do not take time to have the proper legal documents put into place, then you could cause your spouse or children to bear a great emotional and financial burden. As I have pointed out in my earlier columns, you never know what could happen to you or when it might happen. So it is prudent to plan ahead by executing a Durable Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Directive to Physicians, Family and Surrogates. This allows you to choose who you would want to handle your affairs and deal with your doctor and healthcare provider, and even give advice to your chosen representative as to the type of care you desire. Having these documents in place ahead of time can save valuable time in the case of an emergency.
Anyone is susceptible to being diagnosed with Alzheimer Dementia, suffer a stroke, or be the victim of an accident. While age has a great deal to do with Alzheimer Dementia, it has no bearing on the latter. These cases are good examples of why planning ahead and having a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney and Directive to Physicians, Family and Surrogates is important.
While there are a myriad of sources for these instruments, all powers of attorney are not created equal. I have reviewed everything from a one or two page power of attorney to an eight or nine page document. Remember, what works in one part of the country will not work in all parts. Additionally, merely having a power of attorney does not mean it will be accepted by all entities your agent may be dealing with unless it explicitly states their authority. After you become incapable of handling your affairs without assistance is not the time to find out your documents do not work.
If you would like to plan ahead and have one or all of the instruments discussed in this column prepared, be aware that Texas law places certain requirements as to the form of the documents discussed and as recently as September 2017, updated the recommended requirements. Therefore, you should consult an attorney who is focused on this area of law and has experience with regard to what is required to insure your agent can use these documents when the time comes. If you had any of these documents prepared for you in the past or while you resided in a different state you should have a Texas attorney review the documents to make sure they comply with current Texas law.
Sam A. Moak is an attorney with the Huntsville law firm of Moak & Moak, P.C. He is licensed to practice in all fields of law by the Supreme Court of Texas, is a Member of the State Bar College, and is a member of the Real Estate, Probate and Trust Law Section of the State Bar of Texas.www.moakandmoak.com