Don't Wait for Something to Happen to Start Planning
It is remarkable how many people fail to plan for the inevitable. Sooner or later, something happens to every person. About half of all people will eventually become disabled in the sense of being unable to handle their legal and financial affairs. Thankfully, for most of us it is later in life. But, unfortunately, not for all of us. Disability may strike at any time, regardless of age. Even if you are not part of the 50% who become disabled, the mortality rate is stubbornly stuck at 100%. Everyone needs a plan for death.
Recently, a client came in to see us about his mother who is hospitalized at age eighty-three from a car accident. Her husband, who should not have been driving according to the family, plowed into a parked car. His wife was not wearing a seat belt. She is now hospitalized, breathing with the help of a ventilator and is fed with feeding tubes. She cannot get out of bed. Her son, the client, does not know if she knows who he is.
The son advised that he wanted to apply for Medicaid as his mother needed to go into a nursing home -- there was nothing more the hospital could do for her. When we inquired whether he wished for his mother to be kept alive in such an extreme state of disability, he said he was unaware of any other choice he had. We explained that if her health care proxy authorized it, he had the right to withdraw the feeding tubes whenever he felt it was the right time. He produced a health care proxy prepared by a relative -- it failed to authorize withdrawal of life support in extreme circumstances.
The client is left with the following situation. His mother never signed a power of attorney allowing someone to handle her legal and financial affairs. As a result he must petition the court to be appointed her legal guardian in order to be able to apply for Medicaid benefits for her care. The whole process will take a number of stressful months and cost in the tens of thousands of dollars. Don’t wait for something to happen.