Cypress HomeCare Solutions proudly hosts the Health Futures – Taking Stock in You Radio show, in collaboration with Money Radio 1510AM and 105.3FM. Every week, this show presents listeners with invaluable insights from experts, guiding them towards a life that is not only longer but also healthier and more joyful.
On May 31, 2019, viewers heard a dynamic presentation about planning successfully for the future and aging successfully with Advanced Directives, presented by Attorneys Debbie Weecks from the Law Office of Debbie Weecks (623-933-4877 | PO Box #1731, Sun City, AZ 85372) & Don Scher, from The Law Office of Donald T. Scher (602-478-3555 | firstname.lastname@example.org | 625 W Deer Valley Road, Suite #103-294, Phoenix, Arizona 85027-2138).
To listen to the full radio show, you may do so by clicking here.
Planning for Your Future: Key Takeaways from Legal Experts Debbie Weecks and Don Scher
Debbie Weecks and Don Scher, two experienced attorneys in Arizona, recently appeared on the radio show “Health Futures: Taking Stock in You” to discuss important legal considerations for planning your future. As we age, it becomes increasingly important to get our affairs in order, especially when it comes to healthcare and finances. Debbie and Don covered several key topics that can help you be prepared, including powers of attorney, selecting agents, and alternatives like guardianship if you fail to plan ahead.
Overview of Powers of Attorney and Advanced Directives in Arizona
There are three main powers of attorney that are critical for adults in Arizona to have in place:
- General Durable Power of Attorney: This covers decision-making power over most of your financial and legal affairs if you become incapacitated. The word “durable” means it remains valid even if you lose capacity.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney: This person can make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make or communicate them yourself. Often paired with a Living Will outlining end-of-life wishes.
- Mental Health Care Power of Attorney: Grants someone authority to make mental health decisions for you if needed. Arizona is one of few states with this specialized document.
These documents allow you to choose who will step into your shoes if you become incapacitated, either temporarily or permanently. Without them, your family would likely have to go to court to gain decision-making capacity over you.
Powers of attorney can take effect either immediately upon signing or “spring” into effect later if you become incapacitated. You must have mental capacity when signing powers of attorney, and be age 18 or older.
“He or she has to understand what it is that is being prepared and signed.” -Debbie Weecks
How to Select Your Agents when planning for the future
Choosing your agents under these documents is extremely important. They will be granted immense responsibility over your life and affairs if you cannot make decisions yourself. Consider the following when selecting agents:
- Trustworthiness: This person needs to act only in your best interests, without any conflict. Look for someone who will carry out your wishes.
- Capability: They must be willing and able to serve if called upon, which can be a major commitment. Good judgment and relevant skills are key.
- Communication: Convey your preferences clearly so they know how to act on your behalf. Share important documents, contacts, and anything else vital.
- Backups: Name at least 1-2 successor agents in case your first choice cannot serve. Otherwise, the documents may become invalid.
While family or friends are common choices, some alternatives are professional guardians certified by the Arizona Supreme Court. They may be preferable if you lack local contacts. Meet potential agents in advance to understand their approach.
“It’s not an honorary position, this is the most important job in your life.” – Don Scher
You can also name different agents for healthcare versus finances if one person is better suited to each role. Or have co-agents who act jointly. Choose the arrangement that best fits your needs.
The Risks of Failing to Plan Ahead
Avoiding these powers of attorney may seem like saving time and money now. However, failing to legally appoint decision-makers can cause immense problems down the road. Here are some key risks:
- Guardianship/Conservatorship: Without valid documents, your family would likely have to go to court to gain authority over you. The court appoints investigators, attorneys, and more at your own expense.
- Emotional Toll: Legal battles can divide families and take an emotional toll. You may suffer embarrassment or distress from lacking privacy.
- Unwanted Outcomes: The court may grant control to an unknown third party, not your preferred agents. Or impose unwanted restrictions on your rights.
- Time Delays: During legal disputes, urgent decisions may be postponed. This can allow your health or finances to deteriorate.
- Major Costs: Guardianship and conservatorship proceedings can cost tens of thousands in legal fees and court costs. Much pricier than preparing powers of attorney.
To avoid these negative consequences, take action early to document your wishes. These preventive measures will give you great peace of mind.
Special Considerations for Children and Teens when creating advanced directives
Planning for incapacity is important at any age. Parents should also consider implementing powers of attorney for minor children and teens approaching adulthood.
Without documentation, you may not be able to make healthcare or financial decisions for your own children if something happened to them. These documents can grant you proper legal authority.
Once your child turns 18 in Arizona, they are considered a legal adult. At this milestone, they should complete their own powers of attorney to name agents. This will keep them protected through early adulthood.
Empowering your children with these tools as they become adults can give everyone greater security. Revisit agents and documents periodically as life circumstances evolve.
Q&A on Powers of Attorney
Audience members called in several questions about powers of attorney after the segment. Here are answers to some key questions:
- Q: If I already have documents from another state, do I need new ones for Arizona?
- A: Your existing documents may still be valid, but Arizona institutions may be hesitant to accept them. It’s safer to have Arizona-specific forms to avoid any doubt.
- Q: Can I name someone to make decisions about my pets if I’m incapacitated?
- A: You can note your wishes in documents like a will or trust. Some attorneys can include language about your pets when drafting powers of attorney as well.
- Q: Is it better to have co-agents or a single primary agent?
- A: There are pros and cons to each approach. Co-agents can consult and provide checks and balances, but disagreements can also arise. A single primary agent supported by successors may allow more decisive action. Evaluate your personal scenario.
- Q: What if my spouse and I both become incapacitated at the same time?
- A: Excellent point! Many people assume their spouse will step in, but you should name additional agents in case you both become incapacitated simultaneously, such as through an accident.
- Q: How much does it cost to have powers of attorney prepared?
- A: The cost is usually several hundred dollars or less. Well worth it for the protection and peace of mind. Much less expensive than guardianship court proceedings if you don’t have documents in place.
Planning for potential incapacity is one of the greatest gifts you can give yourself and your loved ones. Debbie Weecks and Don Scher emphasized that Powers of Attorney are crucial to have in place so your wishes are carried out by trusted agents.
“Our call is for you to take action now and protect yourself, your spouse, your family. By doing the planning, it’s simple to do. It’s not expensive. It’s expensive when you fail to plan.” – Don Scher
Failing to plan ahead risks family conflict, court intervention, and unnecessary costs. Use the insights from these legal experts to get your affairs in order today.