Living Probate – Better Safe Than Sorry

The story of Terry Schivo brings home the need we all have to prepare for the unexpected. Terry was 27 years old when she collapsed in her apartment, beginning a 15 year struggle between the courts, family, the state of Florida, the federal government and the Roman Catholic church.  It filled the news and became the subject of more than a few books.

Terry failed to prepare. Why should she have? At the young age of 27 no one wants to address the subjects of illness or accidents or death. At the young age of 27 we are still invincible.

But let’s say, just for the point of discussion – what would happen if you were faced with a similar situation. Young, vibrant, healthy, and then an accident occurs. Maybe it happened while sailing, or bike riding, maybe another driver ran a red light, or a parasite from the water you drank on a camping trip.  We all know someone.

The medical community in an effort to avoid litigation and lawsuits requires that the proper paperwork be signed and filed. Who are they legally allowed to consult with regarding medical decisions for you or your loved one? Have you legally given that person permission to speak to the doctors on your behave? Legally, in writing, witnessed and notarized.

Without these documents the courts are left to make the determination of who will act in the best interest of the person and is that person competent to do so.  This takes time and money. Once the court grants this permission periodic reviews are normally required to assure that all is being handled properly.  Are accurate accounting records being kept for each dollar spent in caring for the person? It is not uncommon for a person to have to return to court on an annual basis, attorney on hand with audited accounting records, petitioning the court to allow you to be the guardian of your spouse for another year.

Financial conservatorship and medical guardianship, are both assigned by the courts for a person who did not previously make these decisions in a legally binding manner.  Both of these can easily be avoided, along with the time, cost and frustrations, by simply acquiring Durable Powers of Attorney.

Taking care of this matter is NBD – No Big Deal.  Getting injured without these documents is a Big Deal and makes an already bad situation worse. Worse for the person being cared for and far worse for those who have to petition the court to do what they would want to do naturally, but now must do so under the supervision of the courts.

Durable Powers of Attorney are a gift we give ourselves and those we love. It is not only  for old people and can not be gotten after the incident.  As soon as a person reaches the age of maturity, it is no longer legally assumed who is the guardian.  That’s why my 23 year old daughter has durable powers of attorney, signed and notarized.

Three or four signatures and Terry Schivo’s situation would have been a private family affair instead of a national sensation.  We are not invincible.  We live in a world where the fault may not be our own,