Multiple Attorneys for Personal Care: Too Many Cooks in the Kitchen

August 17, 2009 Hull & Hull LLP Estate & Trust, General Interest, Power of Attorney Tags: , , , , 0 Comments

While employed in management in the assisted living field, I was tasked with the facilitation and implementation of the personal care decisions of my residents. Where the resident was capable, they of course directed their own personal care, including scoping out their vision for advance directives, should the future need arise for these to be considered. Some residents, however, were no longer capable of making their own personal care decisions and the legal responsibility for doing so was passed to another party by a previously conceived Power of Attorney for Personal Care (POAPC).

While simple in concept, complications emerged when more than one person had been appointed under the POAPC. As an example, one resident had appointed all five of her children to make personal care decisions in the event of her incapacity. Well-intentioned, no doubt, as I imagined that she had done so in order to ‘keep the peace’ amongst the five adult siblings. In practical terms, however, the children spanned three countries and nine timezones and an equal breadth of opinion regarding how their mother’s care plan was to evolve, especially as her health declined. Attempting to reach consensus about any facets of her personal care was onerous and time-intense, and understandably emotional for the family. Factors such as the sibling’s interpersonal relationships (including where they felt they fell within the family pecking order), their own beliefs and values regarding end-of-life medical intervention, as well as the ‘baggage’ they each carried regarding their relationship with their mother, impacted, if not directed, their decision-making.

If one feels it both necessary and appropriate to appoint multiple Attorneys under a POAPC, prudence dictates that a prior detailed discussion, including written documentation, be undertaken to ensure that one’s wishes have been effectively communicated and understood.

Jennifer Hartman, Guest Blogger



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