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Be careful if different people handle your finances and health care

It’s not uncommon for seniors to name one person in their power of attorney document to handle their finances if they become incapacitated, and to name someone else to make decisions for them in their health care proxy.

For instance, a senior might live with one child or be very close to him or her, and trust that child to make medical decisions – because the child is familiar with the senior’s day-to-day health issues. On the other hand, that child might be bad with finances, or another child might simply have a much more helpful financial background or a greater willingness to handle bills, taxes and investments.

That’s fine – as long as the two get along and agree on everything. A problem can arise, though, if the two ever disagree. That’s because a child making health care decisions might not be able to put them into effect unless the other child agrees to pay for them.

For instance, what if one child believes the senior needs nursing home care, while the other prefers having aides at home? The child named in the health care proxy can make all the decisions he or she wants, but those decisions will have little effect if the child named in the power of attorney document refuses to release the funds.

That’s not to say that you shouldn’t name different people for the two tasks, but it’s wise to give some thought to how to resolve any conflicts. You might, for instance, specify in your power of attorney document that your agent must comply with decisions made by the person named in your health care proxy.

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