Incapacity is not a topic most of us want to dwell on. However, for most of us, it is a very real possibility that often occurs without warning. Several estate planning documents address this issue, including powers of attorney and advance directives.

The Financial Power of Attorney

The person who signs a power of attorney (the “principal”) authorizes another person (the “agent) to act on his or her behalf. More than one type of power of attorney is available, and each assigns very specific powers.

In a financial power of attorney, the principal gives an agent the power to handle their financial affairs. This type of document is used to plan for future incapacity.

For example, you might become unable to handle your own financial affairs because of disease or an accident. Your agent would use the authority granted in your power of attorney to manage your finances with little or no interruption.

The Healthcare Power of Attorney

This document has the same structure as a financial power of attorney. However, instead of managing financial affairs, the agent named in a healthcare power of attorney makes medical and personal care decisions for the principal.

If you are suddenly unable to make your own medical decisions, then your agent can help you without the need for court intervention.

The Advance Directive

Besides being a power of attorney, the healthcare power of attorney is one of several documents known as advance directives. The living will is another common estate planning document that specifically addresses end-of-life care.

If no advance directive is available, a close family member might be allowed to make medical decisions under Act 169. However, family members might disagree on your appropriate medical care and without clear direction, medical providers will not get in the middle of a family dispute. The better option is to have your wishes spelled out in written form.

The Living Will

When facing terminal or end-of-life illness, some people prefer to stay alive as long as possible. Others focus on whether they can maintain their quality of life. There is no right or wrong choice here. What matters is having end-of-life planning in place so you can have more control over the outcome.

In Pennsylvania, living wills do not become active until certain conditions have been met. An individual’s terminal illness or inability to make end-of-life decisions triggers their healthcare power of attorney and living will.

Living wills have nothing to do with your last will and testament but apply to end-of-life care only. Specifically, your living will instructs your healthcare decision maker whether to withdraw life support or withhold medical care if you are terminally ill or in a vegetative state.

Your living will can prevent someone from approving aggressive treatment against your stated wishes.

What Happens If the Proper Documents Are Not in Place?

Without a financial power of attorney, no one can act on your behalf in financial matters. If you don’t have advance directives in place before becoming incapacitated, no one will have the power to make crucial medical decisions for you. Instead, a family member or someone else will have to ask the court to appoint a legal guardian. However, guardianships are not always the best option because the process:

  • Is time-consuming, and
  • Increases your legal fees

A court-appointed guardianship also limits your control. The judge may appoint someone who does not know your healthcare and end-of-life preferences. Also, your guardian may have to seek court approval before taking action that is routinely permitted under your power of attorney. Well-drafted powers of attorney and living wills can help you maintain control.

Someone to Put the Plan Together

At Slutsky Elder Law, we help clients protect their future through powers of attorney, estate and asset protection planning, and guardianship proceedings.

Contact Slutsky Elder Law and let us protect you!

Susan McLintock
Slutsky Elder Law Firm was first recommended to me by a member of my uncle's Hospice team, and I can fully understand why. Rob and his staff were wonderful to deal with, from the first moment I got in touch with them. Rob helped guide us through complex issues during a difficult/frustrating time, while always putting the needs of my elderly uncle first. Everyone was very knowledgeable and responsive to any questions that we had. They were also patient and understanding with what needed to be explained. I would highly recommend Slutsky Elder Law Firm!
Patty Ewing
From the first initial contact to Robert, I explained my situation to him about my dad who has alzheimers and was concerned about his house. I had filed for medicaid without first consulting and never read the fine print, he was very compassionate, caring and very knowledgeable of the Elder care law, he assured me things would be ok. He made the transfer of the home very easy, He was always there to answer all my questions and concerns, I learned a very valuable lesson, before you consider filling out medicaid, or placing parents in a home please cosider consulting with Robert Slutsky, He made it very less stressful on myself and my father, I cant thank him enough,
Mindy Mozenter
I have had such positive exeriences referring friends and family to Slutsky Elder Law. I can't thank him enough for all his does for the Aging folks in our community.
My wife and I had been caring for my father, who was suffering from dementia. Eventually he became ill enough to require a full time care facility, and we needed to apply for Medicaid to cover the cost. His financial situation was extremely complex and we knew we would need help navigating the process, so we turned to Slutsky Elder Law for assistance. From start to finish, Mr. Slutsky stayed with us and was able to successfully get him covered. We would never have been able to do this on our own. I would definitely recommend Slutsky Elder Law to anyone seeking assistance in these matters.
Alan Prushan
Rob... Is a highly knowledgable and connected attorney in the Elder Care space. He provided our family with excellent strategies for elder care and asset protection. His contacts in the right places enabled us to effectively transfer an asset that had been in process for years. Rob is a caring individual who is empathetic and understanding of the emotions families deal with it addressing elder care issues. I highly recommend Rob and Slutsky Elder Law.
Allison Ballantine
We had an incredibly positive experience. The office was patient and extremely well organized. We felt like Robert had all the knowledge, along with a sense of humor and great manner we were looking for as we navigated some complex issues.
Leona Mangol
From the time of our initial contact with Robert Slutsky, Esq., we found him to be extraordinarily knowledgeable about all aspects of planning needed tied to asset protection and special needs as they relate to placement of my husband in a nursing home. In an early meeting, Mr. Slutsky was able to outline what I needed to gather as background material, as well as other issues that might require more discovery on my part. And, as the weeks passed, I was able to gather what was needed - for a full review with Mr. Slutsky, after which we put in place a planned target date as plans moved along. His wide overall knowledge of overarching Elder Law Issues enabled my son and I to capture a greater understanding of its broad and overarching aspects. Mr. Slutsky, along with his knowledgeable paralegal staff, gave great assistance with our needs and made our journey on this road much easier to handle. For all he does, and for all they do, I am eternally grateful.
My experience with Elder Lawyer, Robert Slutsky was nothing but positive. Mr. Slutsky was always available to answer my questions and concerns. He was compassionate and understanding during the most stressful decisions regarding the care of my husband. His advice, guidance and patience helped me the most. Mr. Slutsky understood the emotional stress and was always able to comfort me as well as give the best advice regarding the right decisions for my husband and me. I highly recommend him to anyone in need of an Elder Lawyer; Mr. Slutsky will guide and give the best advice regarding your situation. I am most grateful I had Mr. Slutsky to help me with the care of my husband.
laura murphy
Attorney Rob Slutsky is outstanding in every way, in not only meeting, but surpassing all expectations I had for an elder law attorney. Last year, when relatives tried to take away my long ago granted power of attorney over my incapacitated husband's affairs, Rob stepped in immediately to file an emergency petition for guardianship. He is always careful to follow ethical guidelines at all times, (which I can say as a retired lawyer, is becoming rarer and rarer in the legal profession). Mr. Slutsky negotiated a fair and reasonable settlement on behalf of me and my husband. He has excellent professional connections who give advice on all aspects of elder law and care, and he guided me to several superb liaisons to help me with difficult decisions. It is impossible for me to lavish enough praise for Mr. Slutsky's acumen, experience and immediate response to my and my husband's needs. I am very grateful to have found him to help me and my husband when we were most in need of legal advice. I can recommend his services without reservation.
Carmen Verrilli
Slutsky Elder Law was highly recommended to me by the Elder care program my mother was using. She wanted to take care of things ahead of time. Because my mother couldn't travel well, Mr. Slutsky came to her house. In less then 10 minutes, it was like having an old friend over. He made both my mother and myself feel very comfortable about what could be an uncomfortable situation. His recommendation and explanations made sense and he made sure both my mother and me completely understood all the details. When he left, we had a full understanding and knew exactly what was being done. Unfortunately, four months later my mother suffered a debilitating stroke. As she was on life support for a few days, I reached out to Robert and he again helped me through a most difficult time. He also assisted with the estate settlement and made the process very smooth. Handling all the details with the city, even meeting me at the Register of Wills Office to make sure I understood everything. Robert and his staff were always there when I needed them, always had an answer to my questions, always were very understanding and compassionate. The entire office was nothing but professional and most helpful. I wish more businesses operated like them.