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Baron Law

Advanced Directives – My Personal Experience When Planning for the Unexpected

My Story

Like many of you reading this article, I never think a major medical disaster could happen to me or, if something did happen, that I would be competent enough to make decisions for myself. Well, as a ‘relatively young’ guy, this was not the case recently when I needed emergency surgery to prevent permanent paralysis.   Two years ago, I was practicing my golf swing on a late Thursday afternoon at Sleepy Hollow in Brecksville, Ohio.  I’m a terrible golfer and I wanted to ensure I wouldn’t embarrass myself the next day while playing with a client.  Near the end of my practice, I decided I wanted to see how hard I could hit the ball.  I hit the ball with maximum effort that ended up landing on the fairway outside of the nets.  During my swing I felt a ‘pop’ in my back and my leg went numb.  I decided to call it quits and go home to rest.

That night, while resting I leaned over to grab the TV remote.  Without warning I had excruciating pain suddenly occur in my back and my legs went limp.  I was on the floor unable to move or reach my phone. Luckily, my friend was visiting and he called EMS.   When EMS arrived, I was crying from the pain, unable to move my legs, laying on the floor.  I have never experienced anything more painful in my life. The paramedics gave me a shot of fentanyl for pain – it did nothing. Upon arriving at the hospital, the nurses gave me a shot of morphine – it did nothing. Then the doctor ordered a dilaudid.  After an hour of being on a combination of fentanyl, morphine, and dilaudid, I was finally relieved of pain and in addition, also relieved of my mental abilities.

After an MRI was performed, the doctor came to give me the news.  She said that I had a severe lateral herniated disc. The disc exploded and was piercing the nerves that control my legs.  I would need emergency surgery within the very immediate future, or I would have permanent paralysis in my right leg for life.  She explained that because the herniation was lateral, it required a more complicated approach.  It was one that she could handle, but she felt her colleague (who was on vacation) was more adept due to his experience. The doctor suggested that I wait three days, in severe pain and on multiple pain meds, to have her collegial surgeon perform the surgery. She needed to know what I wanted to do.   However, because of the effect the medications I was taking for pain, I did not have the mental competency to make this decision myself. Instead, those who I named in my advanced directives would need to make these decisions for me.

What are advance Directives?

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. In the event you are unable to speak for yourself, like in my case of mental incapacity, the medical professionals can contact someone else who has authority to make those decisions for you. Though there are many advance directive documents out there, the three most common are Healthcare Powers of Attorney, HIPAA Authorization and a Living Will.

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 you are unable to make them for yourself.

Living Will – A living will eases the burden on your healthcare POA to ‘pull the plug’ when you are in a permanent vegetative mental state.

HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) – Medical records are private and are covered under the HIPAA laws. You Healthcare POA must have the authority to obtain your medical records through a properly executed HIPAA authorization.

My Healthcare POA

By this time, I was admitted in the hospital and the surgeon needed an answer regarding when I wanted the surgery to take place.  The doctor asked to contact my healthcare POA. I said, no problem her name is Kathy and I will provide her number.  I reached for my phone and it was then I realized that I had forgotten it when EMS brought me in.  Like many of us, I did not memorize Kathy’s number so without my phone, I was stuck.  Additionally, since this was during the outbreak of COVID my friend who called EMS was not able to come into the hospital either.

The nurse taking care of me looked through my cart and noticed I already had my healthcare POA on file, naming Kathy as my Agent. I wasn’t thinking clearly so I hadn’t thought to ask the nurse to check.  It was then that I remembered, in a slight daze, that I practice what I preach.   Three years earlier I completed all of my advanced directives and made sure to upload them with all three major hospitals: Cleveland Clinic, University Hospital, and Metro.

The hospital called my Healthcare POA and she came to my rescue.  As a nurse herself, she knew exactly what medications I was on and how to interpret the medical situation.  Moreover, and critically important, she knew how to handle the insurance barriers that come with getting medical treatment.  Had I not completed my Healthcare POA, Living Will and HIPAA several years prior, I may have had a surgery from an inexperienced surgeon or worse yet, may have been paralyzed for life.  Additionally, had I not uploaded these precious documents with my local hospitals, I would not have had my healthcare agent’s phone number.

When I preach to clients about maintaining updated advanced directives I am preaching from experience.  I didn’t need them, until I needed them! Advanced directives are easy to obtain and require minimal effort to have them uploaded to local hospitals.  I implore you to have them drafted by an attorney or at the very least, complete them the next time you’re at your family care physician. For more information or to learn how Baron Law can help you complete your advanced directives, contact us at 216-573-3723.

 

power of attorney

Financial Power of Attorney | Baron Law | Cleveland, Ohio

Financial power attorney (POA) is a set of documents that you’re giving your agent the ability to act and make financial decisions on your behalf. They’re most commonly used in an elder law scenario. They can also be used in a crisis scenario, if you are overseas, a business owner, and you need to elect someone to make those decisions on your behalf.

Are There Different Types of Powers of Attorneys?

General and Limited:

A general power of attorney gives your agent the ability to govern any part of your estate plan. Whereas, a limited power of attorney is restricted from having control over certain aspects of your estate that you deem fit.

Springing and Current:

A springing power of attorney only allows your agent to act when a certain offense occurs. Whereas, a current power of attorney can act at any time. We recommend that clients have a current power of attorney because it can be difficult to really point out a point time when the springing power returning comes into effect.

How Do I Know if My Financial POA is Up-To-Date?

Financial power of attorney laws changed in 2012, so if you have not updated your power of attorney since then, you’ll want to get it updated as soon as possible.

In addition, you’ll want to look for hot powers in your financial power of attorney, which are:

  • Gifting Powers
  • Powers Over Beneficiary designations
  • Powers Over Retirement Accounts
  • Ability to Make Trusts
  • Safety Deposit Boxes

These are the hot powers, and if you don’t have those, then financial institutions may not warrant your financial power of attorney. It’s really important that you look for these in your document.


Estate planning can seem like a big hassle because they are so many levels which require close detail. If you want to make sure your financial POA is up-to-date and can really act on your behalf, contact us at Baron Law today.

Cleveland divorce lawyer

Should I get a Prenuptial Agreement?

Cleveland, Ohio Divorce Attorney

Do I Need a Prenuptial Agreement?

If you’re getting married, a prenuptial agreement may have crossed your mind.  Many people fear that bringing up the word ‘prenup’ will cause tension in a relationship, but often times it actually eases your mind.  After all, most people get divorced because of one thing – finances.   Knowing and understanding your spouse’s finances may relieve tension and future arguments if things don’t work out.   Nonetheless, entering into a prenuptial agreement is a personal decision.  Consider these pros and cons and compare them with your circumstances.

Pros of a Prenuptial Agreement

  • Assign debt such as credit cards, school loans, and mortgages. Often times, student loans will be fought over in the event of divorce.  Attorneys use debt negotiate the terms of the divorce.
  • Reduce conflicts during a divorce.
  • Document each spouse’s separate property compared to ‘marital property.’ Separate property is not included in spousal support in Ohio.
  • Distinguish between what is marital and community property.
  • Support an estate plan and avoid court involvement to decide property distribution

Cons of a Prenuptial Agreement

  • It’s not an easy subject to talk about and otherwise is not romantic. If you fear that discussing the matter will create tension then it may not be a good way to go.  Keep in mind that in Ohio, you must give sufficient notice before presenting a prenup.  Thus, an agreement given just a day or two before the wedding may not hold up in court.
  • A prenup cannot include child custody issues or child support. Ultimately, the court has the final say in calculating child support and it is determined by the ‘best interest of the child.’
  • Child support is calculated using the Ohio child support worksheet. A prenup will not prevent you from having to pay child support.
  • If your prenup is completely unfair or not in the interest of justice, a court may set aside some of your assets.
  • Cannot include personal preferences such as chores, where to spend holidays, or what school the children should attend.

So, should you get a prenuptial agreement?  Consider these questions:

  1. Do you own real estate?
  2. Do you have more than $50,000 in liquid assets?
  3. Do you earn more than $100,000 a year?
  4. Do you own any part of a business?
  5. Does a part of your estate name beneficiaries or heirs other than your partner?
  6. Do you work or your partner plan to go to school for an advanced degree, while the other works?
  7. Do you have employment benefits such as stock options of profit sharing?
  8. Do you have more than one year’s worth of retirement benefits?

If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, you should consider a prenuptial agreement.  Consult with a qualified divorce attorney or prenuptial attorney for more information.  Cleveland, Ohio attorney Brittany A. Baron can help with your prenup agreement today.  Contact Baron Law LLC for a free consultation.  Call today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with a Cleveland, Ohio divorce attorney who can assist you with your prenuptial legal needs.

estate planning attorney

Testamentary Trusts

Cleveland, Ohio Estate Planning Attorney Dan A. Baron offers the following on Testamentary Trusts.

Testamentary trusts are a great way to plan and safeguard your assets for minor children.  In other uses testamentary trusts can be used for beneficiaries with addictions or disabilities.   Unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts are incorporated into your last will and testament and are funded only after the creator’s death.   The biggest reason people use testamentary trusts is because they are able to control their assets after they die.

For example, if Mom and Dad die in a car accident leaving behind two young children, they would not want their $500,000 estate being left in the hands of nine and ten-year old.    Instead, Mom and Dad create a last will and testament and incorporate language that appoints a guardian for the children and trustee of their testamentary trust.   The trust parameters outlined for the Trustee to follow often include broad language like “to provide for the health, education, and well-being of my children.”   The trustee controls the money and then distributes it to the children as they need it.  Most often, the remaining balance left in the trust is distributed to the children once they reach the age of 25.

It’s important to remember that unlike most trusts, testamentary trusts do not avoid probate.  Instead, testamentary trusts are created after the probate process is complete.  Assets left from probate fund the trust and the trustee is then responsible for carrying out the wishes of the deceased.  Once the assets are in trust, they are protected from creditors and litigation.  However, there is no asset protection for the creators before death.

To learn more about testamentary trusts and how they might be beneficial for your estate plan, contact Baron Law LLC today at 216-573-3723.  You will speak directly with an attorney who can assist you.

 

The information contained in this article is provided solely for convenience purposes only and all users thereof should be guided accordingly. This article is not meant to provide legal advice. If you wish to receive a legal opinion or tax advice on the matter(s) in this report please contact our office and we will speak with you directly.