Among Elder Law attorneys, Care Consultants and Geriatric Care Managers that I know, it is not unusual to hear about elders who have become so isolated that they may choose a friendly bank teller, waitress or grocery cashier that they see once a week to become their Durable Power of Attorney and their Health Care Power of Attorney. This may sound absurd, but it is not unusual. The elder may not have a church or community of friends to interact with. Perhaps, most of their friends have died or are experiencing their own health challenges. Perhaps, their children have become estranged from them or are untrustworthy. The trouble with the friendly waitress is that she may have a tendency to “borrow” money she needs for their husband’s business, child’s school, etc…
There are horror stories I have witnessed with POA’s, such as, the loving son/ Power of Attorney with a gambling addiction with securities trading that depletes the estate in short order. There are the family member POA’s who go power-mad and isolate the elder in a skilled nursing facility from their family members and friends. There are the family member POA’s who are very nice people, however, they are quite simply not up to the task of making the hard decisions on your behalf.
These scenarios can be fairly easily avoided by selecting a third party Power of Attorney for hire. It may feel disloyal to your family or even a bit unnerving to have to rely on a professional to help you with End of Life decisions and care. With some discussions and well prepared interviews that you must have with these POA agents, you can build some rapport to the extent that you will feel more confident in their care. You can buy peace of mind, in this instance, provided you have vetted your POA agent and communicated your health care decisions in a Letter of Intent.
A good Elder Law attorney will have connections with agencies and individuals who will serve as Power of Attorney or Trustee for hire. One organization I like is PACT, Inc. in Lisle, Illinois. They do this work on an hourly fee basis and it can be very good for small to modest estates. Larger estates may want a professional fiduciary to serve as their Successor Trustee. Community banks, such as First Bank & Trust in Evanston will serve as Trustee for estates that are more modest. In selecting your advocate to be your POA for Property or Health Care, you will want to talk with them first and if there are already disagreements brewing in your family, they may not want to step into it. In any case, you will want to talk with your children and spouse about your decision. You will need to let them know that it is your life and your decision and that you want them to accept it and support your decision. It is your life and a failure of trust is very expensive and painful to you and your estate. The loving and caring thing to do is to take good care of your self and plan for a time when you won’t be able to make your own decisions. Leaving these powers to able agents to act on your behalf should provide you with a degree of comfort to carry on with the rest of your life.