The Case for Durable Powers of Attorneys and

Health Care Proxies and Directives for Single Adults.

 

The other day a young man came into my office to discuss a legal matter unrelated to

estate planning. I will call him Bob. Bob’s circumstances are these. He is 26. He is not

married and has no children. He is employed and makes a pretty good wage. He has no

personal assets to speak of other than his car, some personal effects, and a checking account. He

has an employer sponsored 401(k) plan with a modest balance. He also has a term life insurance

policy with a death benefit of $50,000. Bob is a US citizen. His parents are not and live in a

foreign country. He has no brothers or sisters. He has a close association with a US citizen he

considers the same as his mother.

I asked: “Bob, have you ever considered doing some estate planning?” His response

was expected – the same as most single adults when asked the same question. First a smile, then

a little chuckle, then the response: “I don’t have an estate to plan.”

Bob and I continued our discussion about the repercussions of not planning for the

vicissitudes of life. The vicissitudes Bob immediately faces include bad and good fortune not

only with respect to money, property and other things, but Bob’s health and welfare also. His

planning should include not only planning for death, but planning for the bad fortunes of life that

routinely plague us.

I asked Bob, what would happen if he became seriously ill, became involved in a serious

accident, or became physically and/or mentally harmed physically, temporarily or permanently.

He thought about that for a minute and admitted that he had no idea. I asked him what would

happen with his property and money after he died. He was unsure. Without appropriate

planning, here is what will happen to Bob.

Durable Power of Attorney for Single Adults.

Planning for incapacity is essential for all individuals, single or married. Incapacity can

occur under a multitude of circumstances, usual occurs when least expected, and often reeks

financial havoc if not properly planned for. Bob’s immediate financial affairs include: 1)

receiving and depositing his paychecks, disability benefits, or government assistance checks; 2)

paying his rent, car payment and other monthly bills; 3) paying for medical and health care; 4)

paying his life insurance premium; and 5) accessing his 401(k) funds through a hardship

withdrawal if necessary.

In Bob’s case, he has not granted anyone the power and authority to handle his financial

affairs. The only relevant person in Bob’s life who may be willing to undertake these

responsibilities is the US Citizen Bob considers the same as his mother. But Bob has left her

with an expensive and time consuming burden because he did not properly plan.

I will call the US Citizen “US Mom”. Provided US Mom is willing to accept the

responsibility to take care of Bob while he is temporarily or permanently incapacitated from

handling his own finances, she will be forced into Probate Court to petition for appointment as

Bob’s conservator. The Utah Court website, www.utahcourts.gov, has good information

concerning this procedure. Re-published here for illustrative purposes is the following partial

outline of the procedures and requirements which include:

1. Procedure for Appointing a Conservator for an Adult.

These procedures includes at a minimum paying a filing fee to the Court, prepare a

petition to appoint a conservator serving the petition with a notice of hearing giving the

right to interested persons the right to object, appointment and probably paying for Bob’s

own attorney, examination of Bob at the direction of the court, mediation, appointment of

a court visitor, hearings, a pre-appointment test and preparing and order and letters of

conservatorship.

2. Requirements of a Conservator.

If a parent, you may not need to file reports with the court, unless ordered by the court.

If not a parent, inventories, financial reports and accountings are required to be filed with

the court, and you could face a $5,000 penalty for failing to comply. Requirements may

also include the posting of a bond to secure the proper performance as a conservator.

I emphasized to Bob that this is just a partial list of the possible requirements. So, how

does Bob avoid placing this burden on US Mom? He hires John K. Rice to prepare a Durable

Power of Attorney.

A properly prepared and executed Durable Power of Attorney permits Bob to give

authority and power to US Mom to handle all his financial affairs either immediately or in the

event of incapacity, without ever stepping into a courthouse. It negates the necessity of

petitioning a court. No inventories, financial accounts or other reports are required except as

Bob directs. It provides Bob with the continuity of management of his financial affairs for either

a short or long period of time at a fraction of the cost.

Parents with single adult children: Give yourselves a money saving gift. Make an

appointment to properly prepare and execute a Durable Power of Attorney for yourselves and

your single adult children today.

Single adult children: Give the ones you love a gift. Make an appointment to properly

prepare and execute a Durable Power of Attorney today.

Health Care Proxies and Directives for Single Adults.

Many of the same considerations and consequences associated with failing to plan

appropriately for financial incapacity apply to the failure to plan for a sudden and unexpected

inability to direct your own medical care. In Bob’s case, should he find himself in a

circumstance under which he is unable to direct his own medical care, who will? This often

occurs in cases of concussion, coma, stroke or other mentally debilitating events.

Again, provided US Mom is willing to accept the responsibility to take care of Bob’s

medical needs and direct his medical care, she will be forced into Probate Court to petition for

appointment as Bob’s guardian. The procedures and requirements are pretty much the same as

those outlined above for appointment as conservator, with a few deviations. A petition for

appointment as conservator can be joined together with the petition for appointment as guardian.

However, the burden to US Mom remains the same.

How does Bob avoid placing this burden on his US Mom? He hires John K. Rice to

prepare a Durable Health Care Proxy and Directive. A properly prepared and executed Durable

Health Care Proxy and Directive permits Bob to give authority and power to US Mom to direct

his medical care and make medical decisions in the event Bob cannot, without ever stepping into

a courthouse. It again negates the necessity of petitioning a court. Bob can also direct his

preferences concerning his health care including directing his US Mom and physicians to

withhold artificial life sustaining devices if doing so will only serve to artificially prolong his

Parents with single adult children: Give yourselves a money saving gift. Make an

appointment to properly prepare and execute a Durable Health Care Proxy and Directive for

yourselves and your single adult children now.

Single adult children: Give the ones you love a gift. Make an appointment to property

prepare and execute a Durable Health Care Proxy and Directive now.

Next Week: The Case for Wills and Trusts for Single Adults.