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When it comes to estate planning, family tensions may grow high. Especially when one family member has been named the power of attorney and health care agent for your loved one and there are disagreements on medical disputes and financial decisions.
How can you handle medical and financial decision disputes while ensuring that your loved one’s best interests are still at the forefront of your intentions?
In Tennessee, you need a durable power of attorney to dictate your financial choices and a health care agent to make your medical choices if you cannot do so yourself.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is a legal tool that allows you to name an individual to make financial decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. This individual has the legal authority to see that your designated wishes are carried out.
The person you name your durable power of attorney will have access to cash, bank accounts, investments, family obligations, claims and litigations, Social Security payments, debt and bill payments, taxes, and retirement payments. That’s why it is imperative you name someone you can fully trust.
Health Care Agent: Medical Disputes
In Tennessee, you also need an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This individual becomes your health care agent. The agent can discuss with your doctors and family members what care you wish to undergo, or not undergo for the amount of time you are incapacitated. If you were to become better and able to make sound decisions again, you become your health care agent once more.
Sometimes known as your power of attorney for health care, the agent can view your medical records as well. You can appoint your own health care agent. However, if you become ill or incapacitated, and have not named a health care agent, your doctor may name a family member your health care surrogate until you are well enough to make your own decisions.
Disputes That Arise in Medical and Financial Decision Making
By having a durable power of attorney and health care agent in place, you hope this will alleviate any disputes that may arise while you are unwell. However, issues still may occur even though you have taken the necessary legal steps to ensure your wishes are carried out.
Typically, issues tend to arise when a parent names one sibling over the other as their durable power of attorney and health care agent. Siblings may be skeptical that their parent’s wishes will not be carried out in the way they had requested by instead, how the sibling wants things to occur.
However, there are ways to avoid such conflicts and to keep peace within the family.
One such way to avoid these disputes is by clearly going over your living will, and ultimately, your will to ensure your children know what your wishes are if you become incapacitated or end-of-life decisions need to be made. This will allow them to ask questions while you are still able to provide the answers. It also allows you to fill in any gaps or concerns you may not have previously thought of.
If you still are facing disputes surrounding medical and financial decision-making tasks, remember the following:
When you are deciding who to name a financial or health care agent, you are under no obligation to tell anyone but the person of your choosing. If there are privacy and information concerns regarding other family member’s need-to-know status, remind the agent that they do not have to share information.
Parental access cannot be forbidden by a child who has durable power of attorney over a parent. However, a health care agent may have the right to prevent visitation if it can be detrimental to the patient’s health.
If you are the parent in question and are still deemed competent to make decisions, you have the right to revoke your power of attorney. You should place this in writing and inform the former agent if you do so.
If you believe the person named your parent’s health care agent or durable power of attorney is acting improperly, you and your family can file a petition to the court challenging that person. If the court finds the person is not acting accordingly, they will be able to appoint a guardian.
If the parent or family member dies, the agent and durable power of attorney is no longer in charge. If the individual has a will in place, their estate will already have guidelines to determine the estate distribution.
When it comes to estate planning, it is unfortunate but true, that family members will disagree on medical and financial decisions for a loved one. Whenever someone is unwell, it’s to be expected that tensions will grow. But when you prepare for the future before you no longer can, it can help stop those disputes from ever occurring.
If you are currently facing family disagreements surrounding medical and financial decisions, contact the estate planning attorneys of Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC.
Don’t make a difficult time more challenging for your loved ones. Plan for your future and the future of your family. At Martin Heller Potempa & Sheppard, PLLC, our estate planning lawyers will guide you through the process with the compassion needed. With years of experience in estate planning and administration, we know how to best protect your assets and prepare for the unknown.