Healthcare power of attorney blogs by Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney Dan Baron

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COVID-19 and the Continuing Importance of Powers of Attorney

Certainty in this uncertain time is peace of mind many families are finding themselves without. The Covid-19 pandemic is highlighting harsh realities of life all of us were aware of but chose to ignore. One such reality is the importance of comprehensive and up-to-date estate planning. Many parents, grandparents, established business owners, and seasoned professionals are all awaking everyday to the potential of expensive and long-term hospitalization with the chance of persisting and life-changing health consequences. One can’t fight Covid-19 directly, it isn’t a person or thing to combat with force or wit, however, mitigation and foresight are always available. Estate planning will allow you to proactively get your affairs in order and, worst case scenario, if you become infected, allow you to rapidly and intelligently respond in a way that meets you and your families unique needs. Whether you have no estate plan or are looking to update an existing plan, where should you start? Given the current health crisis, taking a look at your powers of attorney, or POAs, is a good place to start.

Power of Attorney

A comprehensive estate plan provides the instructions necessary for estate administration, via a will, while tax relief and flexibility with asset distribution can be accomplished via trusts. Critical issues and decisions during life, however, must be addressed separately. That is where your powers of attorney come into play. A power of attorney comes in many forms, but its primary purpose is to grant authority to one or more responsible parties to handle financial or health decisions of a person in the event of illness or other incapacity. Life, and its associated obligations and burdens, tend to continue regardless of one’s physical or mental health. As many families are finding out, the bills keep coming due regardless of COVID-19. Powers of attorney are protection that ensures affairs are handled and medical wishes are followed even if you are lacking capacity in mind or body.

In your estate plan you will want both a financial power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney. Both are agency agreements that grant another individual the authority to make decisions, within a certain sphere of decisions whose terms you dictate, on your behalf. A financial power of attorney, as the name suggests, grants your agent the authority to make financial decisions for you. Managing investments, buying selling land or property, representing you in business negotiations, etc. Healthcare power of attorney works the same way but with healthcare decisions. If you are incapacitated or otherwise can’t decide for yourself, your agent will decide who your doctor is, what treatment you undergo, what medication should be administered, etc.

As always, the terms, powers, and limits for your agents are decided by you in the documents that appoint your agent. If you want to add limits on how long they are appointed, what issues they can or cannot decide, or when exactly their powers manifest, you can do so. Furthermore, you always possess the authority to dismiss them outright or appoint someone new.

Powers of attorney are important to have because spouses or family members will face difficulty and frustration gaining access to things like bank accounts and property that is in your name only. This can be especially damaging within the context of business or professional relations in which the “gears of industry” must keep moving. Regrettably, if an individual trusted to handle the business if something happens doesn’t possess the authority to so, significant or even fatal business consequences may result. The same goes for medical decisions, often treatment decisions must be made right there and then. Hesitation may mean permanent damage or death to you and if someone doesn’t have express authority to make those decisions, things get confusing, messy, and take a lot longer.

If you decide not to draft one or more powers of attorney and you end up incapacitated, then, in certain situations, a court is forced to appoint either a guardian or conservator and the family is effectively cut off from independently managing the relevant affairs of the incapacitated family member. Further, if a court is forced to action, the entire process will take longer, cost more, be public knowledge, and is immensely more complex than it otherwise should be. Having an experienced Ohio estate planning attorney draft the appropriate POAs can avoid a lot of headache and save a lot of money down the line.

Even with the uncertainly pandemics bring, certain estate planning questions always linger. Who will manage my finances and investments if I am sick or incapacitated? Who will pick what doctor treats me or if a risky but potentially lifesaving procedure should be performed? What if I am put on life sustaining medical support? In what situations and for how long will I remain on such support, if I want to be on it at all? These types of issues and questions also must be addressed and accounted for by your estate plan. That is why finding and working with experienced Cleveland estate planning attorneys are so critical. These types of decisions and potential consequences for your life and wellbeing are not things that should be done on the fly or with doctors and stressed out family members demanding a decision. Unfortunately, with COVID-19 cases becoming more and more prevalent with each passing day, the necessity of proper POAs is crystal clear and those without these documents are scrambling to find estate planning attorneys who are open and still taking clients. If your estate planning documents, especially POAs are out of date or incomplete, contact a local estate planning attorney right away. Courthouses and government agencies are closing daily, and you don’t want to find yourself without the stability of critical legal documents during this most unstable time.

COVID-19, for good or ill, has and will continue to change how we live, work, and survive. Fortunately, one aspect of life that has largely gone untouched is estate planning. Estate planning was smart to do before Covid-19 and it still is. Northeast Ohio has felt the touch of this disease like every county in the world has. Cleveland estate planning attorneys are working around the clock to meet the historic demand for quick and immediate estate planning and are currently utilizing more teleconferencing and remote legal services than ever before to make their existing and new clients comfortable and secure. Social distancing and stay-at-home orders are all proactive protection measures that the majority of Americans are following, even if they cause financial hardship or social strain. Estate planning also represents a proactive protection measure, however, it seldom causes any financial or social pain, it actually prevents them. As such, it’s strange that 50% of people don’t even have a simple will. Considering the ongoing crisis, make sure you and your family are in the 50% that protects, not the 50% leaving everything to chance.

Disclaimer:

The information contained herein is general in nature, is provided for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal or tax advice. The author nor Baron Law LLC cannot and does not guarantee that such information is accurate, complete, or timely. Laws of a particular state or laws that may be applicable in a given situation may impact the applicability, accuracy, or completeness of the preceding information. Further, federal and state laws and regulations are complex and subject to change. Changes in such laws often have material impact on estate planning and tax forecasts. As such, the author and Baron Law LLC make no warranties regarding the herein information or any results arising from its use. Furthermore, the author and Baron Law LLC disclaim any liability arising out of your use of, or any financial position taken in reliance on, such information. As always consult an attorney regarding your specific legal or tax situation.

Advanced Directives and Your Estate Planning

What are Advanced Directives?

Advance directives are a set of documents where you are appointing another individual to make medical decisions on your behalf. Typically, we have in these documents a living will, HIPPA authorization, and then health care power of attorney.

How Are These Documents Used?

Living Will- A living, will not to be confused with the last will and testament, is used where you are telling the world that you do not want to be kept on life support in the event that you have little to no brain activity. Instead of leaving that decision on your loved ones, you’re making the decision for yourself that you don’t want to be kept artificially alive.

Healthcare Power of Attorney- The agent of your healthcare power of attorney can make decisions about your health, such as a risky surgery.

HIPPA Authorization- You are giving your loved ones or your agent the ability to obtain medical records as well as something as simple as attending a doctor’s meeting.

How Can You Obtain These Documents?

There are a few ways that you can obtain these documents. One way is through the Cleveland Clinic or Metro Health; any big hospital has standard forms that you can complete.

However, we recommend you discuss these options with an attorney so you can discuss what you want and make sure that is carried out in the right manner.


If you are unsure if you have these advanced directives in place, if you know you need these documents, or if you are putting together some estate planning, this is a really important step. Contact us today to get a free consultation or visit us online to learn more.

Baron Law Cleveland Ohio

Planning for Crisis: Advance Directives

Estate planning is an expansive concept. Fundamentally, estate planning seeks to create a detailed plan for your finances, healthcare, and assets for the reminder of life and after death, to the extent physically possible and within the means of the estate planner. Though it would be nice if a crystal ball existed and told us what to do, how to do it, and when to do it, estate planning must resort to educated guesses and client preference.

An experienced Cleveland estate planning attorney knows there are limitations on his abilities. Some matters can’t be foreseen or preplanned for, such as changes in relevant law or undisclosed heirs or assets. There are also limitations brought on by estate planning clients themselves, such as financial restrictions or outright refusal to take the advice of experienced counsel or professionals.  These limits aside, most people looking to plan their estate are concerned with the usual issues affecting us all. Principally, ways to ensure money exists for the rest of life and instructions and preferences regarding necessary medical care. For most, the extent necessary medical care is planned for extends only to telling adult children whether or not they want to be kept alive in the event of a coma or other traumatic injury. Needless to say, this is not good enough and will most likely be forgotten or disregarded. Any Ohio estate planner worth their salt would not let you get away with such half-measures regarding critical medical treatment, and this brings us to advance directives.

What are advance directives and why do I need them?

Simply put, advance directives are legal documents that provide detailed instructions about who should oversee your medical treatment and what your end-of-life or life-sustaining wishes are. Thus, in the event you are unable to speak for yourself, such in the event of coma, traumatic injury, or terminal disease, your family and medical professionals can refer to your advance directives and find out what you want to do.

There are multiple advance directive documents which convey your medical wishes and/or gives authority to another to make medical decisions on your behalf. Which particular document is needed is highly dependent on your medical circumstances, usually focusing on the type of medical treatment contemplated/needed and whether or not you have capacity to make medical decisions yourself. Though there exists many advance directive documents out there, the two most common are healthcare powers of attorney and living wills.

Durable Healthcare Power of Attorney

A healthcare power of attorney allows you to appoint a trusted person to make all healthcare decisions in the event that 1) you become terminally ill and are unable to make your own healthcare decisions or 2) are either temporarily or permanently unable to make medical decisions for yourself. The person you designate with this authority has the power to carry out your wishes and make all other necessary decisions about your medical treatment and other healthcare matters.

Make sure after completing your healthcare power of attorney to at least file it with your primary care physician/provider. The document cannot act to protect you if no one knows about it or knows where it is. Though similar to your financial power of attorney, a healthcare power of attorney only concerns issues of medical treatment. Both work in concert to provide whomever you chose to act in your best interest the legal authority to do so. Talk with your Cleveland estate planning attorney to make sure your powers of attorney are valid and up-to-date.

Living Will

Your living will, sometimes called a healthcare proxy, is almost always paired with your healthcare power of attorney. A living will is a document that conveys your particular instructions to certain medical situations, principally impending death or prolonged terminal conditions, i.e. accepting or declining of life saving medical care. Lesser issues, such blood transfusions or non-life threatening organ or tissue transplants are covered under a healthcare power of attorney. That is why it is important to have both in effect, so all your bases are covered.

Often estate planning clients say that they have communicated their wishes about life sustaining treatment, however, often how it really turns out, friends and family are unaware of an incapacitated person’s medical directives or they may choose to discount or ignore previous conversations, believing that you will pull through against all odds and medical advice. By memorializing your medical directives via a living will, medical staff will consult the document at the appropriate time and carry out your wishes. This takes the stress of critical care decisions off the shoulders of loved ones and removes any opportunity for foul play or misinterpretation. Be sure to consult with your Ohio estate planning attorney to make sure your living will is up-to-date and complies with any recent changes in Ohio law.

Other Types of Advance Directives: DNR’s and Donor Registry Forms

 It is worth noting a few additional advance directive documents as well, namely Do Not Resuscitate Orders and Organ/Tissue Donor Registry Enrollment Forms. Both documents respectively seek to further clarify your medical wishes. DNRs are used when a medical emergency occurs and alerts medical personnel that a person does not wish to receive CPR in the even that the heart or breathing stops.  Organ/Tissue Donor Registry Enrollment Forms supplement your healthcare power of attorney and living will in that it ensures your wishes concerning organ and tissue donation will be honored.

 The general rule is advance directives only come into effect when you are unable to make you own decisions about medical treatment. All advance directive documents allow you to plan ahead by sharing your healthcare instructions with your doctors and family if you become unable, even only temporarily, to make medical decisions yourself. Advance directives help ensure your wishes are followed if you become seriously injured or unconscious. Contact a local estate planning attorney and make sure your have these important documents in place.

About the author: Mike E. Benjamin, Esq.

Mike is a contracted attorney at Baron Law LLC who specializes in civil litigation, estate planning, and probate law. He is a member of the Westshore Bar Association, the Ohio State Bar Association, the Cleveland Metropolitan Bar Association, and the Federal Bar Association for the Northern District of Ohio. He can be reached at mike@baronlawcleveland.com.

Why Every Parent Should Establish A Guardianship Within Their Estate Plan

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning lawyer, Daniel A. Baron, offers information on why every parent should establish a guardianship for their minor children within their estate plan:

 

Estate Planning Lawyer

When is a guardianship necessary?

It is customary for the parents of minor children to make any and all legal decisions that are necessary to keep their children safe. There may come a time however, when the minor children need a guardianship established.

Some of the reasons in which a guardianship needs to be established are but not limited to:

  • The parent or parents are deceased
  • A minor inherits assets and the parent or parents are not qualified to make legal decisions
  • The parent or parents are not or cannot take care of the minor child any longer due to illness
  • The parent or parents cannot take care of the minor child any longer due to incarceration

What is role and responsibilities of the guardian?

  • Has the right to deny certain persons to come in contact with minor child or restrict the interaction with certain persons
  • Become the minors fiduciary by keeping inventory and control of all assets
  • Investing minors child’s assets
  • Pay the minor child’s bills
  • File income taxes annually
  • Decide where the minor child shall live

In some cases if you are a guardian you may need to get permission from the courts to carry out these duties.

In addition to overseeing the over-all wellbeing of the minor child and the estate, the guardian also has the following duties:

  • If necessary, bring a lawsuit on behalf of the minor child
  • If public assistance benefits are required, apply for them
  • Apply for public housing where needed for the minor child
  • Provide a legal residence for the minor child so that the minor child attends school and receives a quality education
  • Receive and maintain any funds given to support and care of the minor child
  • Authorize any care such as medical or other care necessary to insure the wellbeing and support of the minor child

Essentially the guardian looks after the minor child just as the parent or parents would have.

For more information on setting up guardianships for your minor children or your minor or adult child with special needs, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.

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I Recently moved to Ohio from another State? Do I Need To Update My Power of Attorney?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following helpful answers to Powers of Attorney:

What If I have a Power of Attorney From another state?

Most Powers of Attorney signed in other states will be recognized in the other states. A Power of Attorney used to convey title to real estate, typically must be signed, dated, witnessed by two people, and “acknowledged” or notarized by a notary public or court official.  The state laws will govern who is authorized to take “acknowledgments”.  The practical question is not whether the Power of Attorney is valid, but whether a financial institution will honor it.  Also, if the document refers to statutes from another state, you may have to provide a copy of those statutes.

The law may vary in the state where you signed your Power of Attorney versus the state in which you now reside. Even if the document lists the same or similar powers, the meanings may be different  in the two states.  Also, many states have different statutory protections for people signing a Power of Attorney.

Suffice it to say, it may be in your best interest, if practicable, that you have new Powers of Attorney executed.

 

Do I need to get a new Power of Attorney if I move to a different state?

When moving to a different state, you should always consult a local attorney to see whether your Power of Attorney will be as you intended.

In some states, a Power of Attorney is not “durable” unless it is “recorded”. Recorded means filed with local government.  In addition, there may be special rules about how it is revoked.  It would behoove you to check with a local attorney.

Again, it may be in your best interest, if practicable, that you have new Powers of Attorney executed.

 

A Power of Attorney is only one of the many parts to a comprehensive estate plan. For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, or further questions on Powers of Attorney, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law to arrange a meeting at 216-573-3723.

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What Recourse Do I Have if My Power of Attorney is Stealing From Me?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following helpful answers to Powers of Attorney:

Can the Power of Attorney be used by the agent to take my money or property without my permission?

Unfortunately, you can run the risk that the agent you choose to give your Power of Attorney could abuse the power by spending your money or taking your money without your knowledge or worse without your permission. Because the agent can use the Power of Attorney to access your bank account and sell your property, it is prudent  that you not give your Power of Attorney to anyone you do not trust.  If you happen to have an unscrupulous agent, it can be very challenging to get back funds or property taken by the agent, because the agent usually has no money left to return as they have used it all for their benefit.  The person acting as your Power of Attorney has the power to sell your property, or mortgage it.  It cannot be stressed enough that you chose your Power of Attorney very wisely.

 

If I think someone is using my Power of Attorney to steal from me, what can I do?

If you are suspicious that your agent is abusing their powers, revoke the Power of Attorney immediately.

Next, without delay, notify all banks, brokerage firms, or other financial institutions in which you have money that you have revoked the Power of Attorney.

Finally, go to the probate court. You may either by yourself or through an attorney.  Demand that the agent you suspect of absconding with your funds file a detailed account showing how your money was spent. A filing fee will need to be paid by you and you may need to possibly pay the agent for the cost of preparing the accounting documentation. Next, the court will hold a hearing at which time you can challenge the any or all of the information given in the detailed accounting. Ultimately, if the court finds the agent took your money without your authorization, you can sue the agent and/or possibly press criminal charges.

 

Can I revoke my Power of Attorney?

The Power of Attorney cannot be used unless the agent has it or it, or at least a copy and either you or they have given to banks, financial institutions, or others so that they think you want the agent to act on your behalf. If you have not given the Power of Attorney to anyone, you can revoke it by destroying the document.

If the eventuality the Power of Attorney has been given to the agent, an institution, or has already been recorded, you should execute immediately a revocation of the Power of Attorney that is witnessed and acknowledged in the same manner as the first Power of Attorney. Then; just as you distributed the Power of Attorney initially, you will need to furnish a copy of the Revocation to the banks, brokerage firm, or any other financial institution, and anyone else that may have a copy of the original Power of Attorney form that they know the Power of Attorney is no longer valid.

A Power of Attorney is only one of the many parts to a comprehensive estate plan. For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, or further questions on Powers of Attorney, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.

 

Living Will

Do I need a Living Will?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following regarding living wills:

Before you can answer this question you must first understand what a Living will is and what purpose it serves.

A Living Will is one form of Advance Directive which clearly defines your wishes for medical care should the following occur:

A Living Will clearly states your health care intentions.  This document allows you to make decisions while still cognitive such as:

  • Whether or not you wish to be put on life support, even if for a very short time
  • Would you would like to receive pain medication of any kind
  • Is it you desire to have any nutrition available by means of a feeding tube

The Living Will document also allows you to list any further specific instructions for your care if you become fully incapacitated.

Another form to consider securing in conjunction with a Living Will is a Health Care Proxy which is a specific Power of Attorney. A Health Care Power of Attorney authorizes a specific person you have chosen to act on your behalf to make all medical decisions (or to make sure that your medical wishes in your Living Will that you have set forth are followed), in the eventuality that you are no longer able to make these decisions yourself.

It might be in your best interested to have both a Living Will and a Power of Attorney which will set forth comprehensive guidance when it comes to your medical care in the end stages of life.

Things to consider when completing these documents:

  • Who do I want and trust to make my health care decisions when I am no longer capable of making them on my own?
  • What kind of medical treatment DO I or DON’T I want?
  • How comfortable do I want to be when my life’s journey is coming to an end?
  • How do I want people to treat me?
  • What do I want my loved ones to know?

Having a Living Will is only one part to a comprehensive estate plan.  For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, contact Dan Baron of Baron Law to make an appointment at 216-573-3723.

Estate Planning Attorney

What Is a Power of Attorney and Do I Need One?

Cleveland, Ohio estate planning attorney, Daniel A. Baron, offers the following helpful answers to Powers of Attorney:

What is a Power of Attorney?

A Power of Attorney is a legal document you use allowing another designated person, of your choosing, to act on your behalf. It is a legal relationship in which you are the principal and the person you appoint is the agent.  A Power of Attorney outlines specific powers you give to your agent. The powers can be limited or broad. An example would be, you are selling your house, but are not able to attend the closing.  You can at that point give someone the power just to sign the deed in your absence.  Keep in mind that most durable powers of attorney, give your agent the power to do almost anything you could or would do.  In this example you may just limit the function of the Power of Attorney’s duties.

Some financial institutions, brokerage firms, or banks may require you to sign one of their own company specific Power of Attorney for their files.

Why do I need a Power of Attorney?

In the event you become unable to handle your own affairs as a result of illness, accident, or even being absent due to your job, the Power of Attorney gives your agent the power to handle your financial affairs as you would handle them yourself.  Since you might not be able to execute a Power of Attorney at a time when you are disabled due to an accident or become incapacitated, or should you become unable to handle your own affairs and have no Power of Attorney, your spouse or family may have to request the Probate Court to appoint a power of attorney on your behalf.  A Power of Attorney can be very helpful to both you and your family, as by naming your own agent and having a signed Power of Attorney avoids the expense of probate court and avoids naming someone who may not know and carryout your wishes.

Where should I keep my Power of Attorney?

As your Power of Attorney is an important legal document, it is recommended that you keep it in a safe and secure place. You may also want to give a copy to your agent(s) or in a safe and secure place where it can be easily found by your acting agent.  Your agent may also keep a copy in case yours is lost. It is also wise to make sure your family knows where to find your Power of Attorney, or whom to ask when it is needed.  And of course, your attorney will have a copy of the Power of Attorney.

What does “durable” mean?

The legal definition of ‘durable’ means the Power of Attorney will remain in effect even if the principal becomes mentally incapacitated. The powers you give to your agent will remain effective even though you are unable to give your agent updated instructions.  If you have an older power of attorneys or an out of state powers of attorney, many of these still have these words, and remain in effect.

When does the Power of Attorney take effect?

The Power of Attorney becomes effective immediately upon signing the document before two witnesses and having it notarized. The agent is able to use the Power of Attorney as soon as he or she receives it.  However, you may give the Power of Attorney to your agent(s) and tell the person(s) NOT to use it unless you are unconscious or unable to act for yourself.  It is imperative that you know and trust the person you are asking to be your Power of Attorney.

You may opt to use a “springing” Power of Attorney which would not take effect until a specific triggering event happens, such as you become incapacitated. However, there are several issues with springing Powers of Attorney.  The agent first needs an affidavit showing the triggering event has occurred before the Power of Attorney can be put into use.  Then, even though the law says banks and other institutions that accept the document with the affidavit are not liable, banks have been reluctant to recognize the agent’s power under a springing Power of Attorney. Ultimately, it isn’t clear whether such a document would be accepted in other states other than your own.

Does giving someone a Power of Attorney mean I don’t have control over my money any longer?

It does not. Although you still have the right to control your money and property after a Power of Attorney has been put in place, keep in mind, you are giving your agent the ability to access your money.  Although there is a risk that a dishonest or unscrupulous agent might steal your money, your agent is not supposed to use your funds in any manner with your permission.  It is therefore vital to choose an agent you trust. A sound idea would be to go over the agent’s duties before you sign your power of attorney.

Do I need to update my Power of Attorney if nothing has changed?

It is always a good idea to review your Power of Attorney periodically to make sure you still agree with your choices.

There are some banks, brokerage firms, and other financial institutions that will attempt to reject a Power of Attorney that is several years old. This is mainly due to the possibility that the Power of Attorney has been revoked.  This is a good thing, so that an unscrupulous agent that had their Power of Attorney duties revoked, does not gain access to your funds and deplete them.  There are several options to prepare for this. If you remain competent it is very wise to re-execute your Power of Attorney every five years or so.

If unfortunately, you are no longer competent; your agent can sign an affidavit that your power of attorney is in full force and in effect and provide that to the financial institution.

A Power of Attorney is only one of the many parts to a comprehensive estate plan. For information regarding living wills, trusts, power of attorney, or a pour-over will, or further questions on Powers of Attorney, contact Daniel A. Baron of Baron Law today at 216-573-3723.