Previously, I wrote about the importance of having a Texas power of attorney. In Texas, this instrument consists of a Durable Power of Attorney, Medical Power of Attorney, Declaration of Guardian, Directive to Physicians, Family and Surrogates and Disposition of Remains sections. While I often advise clients on the benefits of these instruments, far too often I spend a great deal of time cleaning up my client’s estate planning.
As many of you may know, I have dealt personally with my father and his health issues. I can tell you from this experience dementia is a horrible desease. The terms “dementia” and “Alzheimer’s disease” can be confusing. Many people believe they are synonymous, but the two words mean different things.
Dementia is a general term for a decline in mental ability severe enough to interfere with daily life. Alzheimer’s is the most common cause of dementia. Alzheimer’s is a specific disease. Dementia is not.
If diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Dementia, act quickly. While nobody can promise something won’t be challenged, the earlier you put into place a power of attorney, choosing for yourself your agents, the less likely there is to be a challenge.
You never know what could happen to you or when it might happen. So it is prudent to plan ahead by executing a Texas power of attorney. This allows you to choose who you would want to handle your affairs, 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.
Many of you may recall the story of a young Florida couple, Michael and Terri Schiavo. Terri Schiavo had a stroke shortly after their marriage and was in a coma for years. She did not have a Directive to Physicians, Family and Surrogates and a long and painful legal battle ensued between her husband, Michael, and her parents. This painful saga continued for over 10 years. It took an order from then Florida Governor Jeb Bush, to remove a feeding tube. The time, grief and legal expense expended by this family could have been avoided with the instruments I have discussed.
Anyone can fall off a ladder, suffer a stroke, or be the victim of an accident. Age has no bearing on this. 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.
If you would like to plan ahead and have one or all of the instruments discussed in this column prepared be aware Texas law places certain requirements as to the form of the documents discussed. Therefore, you should consult an attorney. Note, if you had any of these documents prepared for you while you resided in a different state you should have a Texas attorney review the document to make sure it complies with Texas law.