August 29, 2014 | by Justin Capetola
Last month, Philip, a client, called our office about his mother Sarah. She had suffered a stroke and was incapable of speaking. He was upset because the doctors would not discuss her medical care issues with him. The reason for his call was that he needed to access Sarah’s money to take care of her upcoming rent payment and other bills. We informed him that, unfortunately, he could not legally access Sarah’s money because he did not have a power-of-attorney for her. As he had no legal right to make any decisions for his mother, he was forced to petition the local Orphans’ Court to be appointed her Guardian. The process took almost three months before he was finally appointed Guardian. During this time, Sarah’s bills were not paid and her utilities were shut off due to nonpayment. Thankfully, after being appointed Guardian, Philip is now able to take care of these matters. However, those three months were extremely frustrating for both us and Philip as we were both unable to help Sarah. Further, Philip is now required to report to the court on all action he takes with regard to Sarah’s care and finances.
This example highlights a stressful and emotional event that we do not want to see repeated. Not only was Philip dealing with the stress over the medical issues of his mother, he was not able to take care of her financial matters. Had Philip been designated the power-of-attorney for his mother, much of this stress could have been avoided.
A power of attorney is a written document that gives one person the legal ability to make specified decisions on behalf of another person. It is, without a doubt, one of the most important legal documents you can have. Despite its importance, a POA is widely misunderstood. It applies only during one’s lifetime, unlike a will which takes effect upon death. It’s therefore essential that you have great confidence in your designated attorney. They must be someone you can trust, without reservation, to make decisions for you and not for themselves, or anyone else.
The lengthy, complicated and expensive legal process that Philip experienced is extremely inconvenient and frustrating. A POA, on the other hand, can be prepared efficiently and provide your designated attorney fast and easy access to your finances, when necessary.
If you have a power of attorney document, please send us a copy if you have not already, so that we can begin the process to add it to your account. If you do not have a power of attorney, please contact us so that we can offer to assist you in getting one prepared.