In the story in The Washington Post titled Sam Huff needs help making life decisions; there is a fight over who should do it, he validates why every adult over 18 should set up and be very clear about whom they want to represent them by putting into place a durable power of attorney and an Advance Medical Directive (AMD).
His story is complicated because there is a disagreement between his daughter, who Huff granted durable power of attorney in 2011, and his domestic partner, who he named as his agent in his AMD. This case illustrates why it can be problematic to have one person in charge of your finances (the one with the durable power of attorney) and someone else that would make healthcare choices (the one named in the AMD).
When they don’t agree, the brunt of the conflict usually penalizes the individual that needs help. In this case it’s Sam Huff.
This story isn’t about dementia, but about the need for everyone to put into place estate planning tools. Good estate planning is for the living.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that the lawyer that wrote up these two documents might not have been dedicated to the practice of estate planning. Quite possibly, he may have used a tool like Rocket Lawyer that might not educate on the issue of picking different individuals for these two roles. While there might have been a good reason it was done, right now we are seeing exactly why it’s a bad idea.
Even if they weren’t having this very public disagreement, there are many other ways this conflict plays out. For Sam, the person with his AMD might select a memory-care community they believe will best address his needs. However, the person who would be making the payments could refuse to complete the application or pay for the community.
Sadly, in this story everyone is losing. I hope you will use Sam Huff as an incentive to get to an estate lawyer and at least get a durable power of attorney and Advance Medical Directives in place. You never know when you might need them, and for a few hundred dollars, having them done right will serve you well. Advised.