Unexpected events can keep you from making important decisions, managing your general finances, and attending to other important business. When this occurs, someone else may need to handle these matters for you. Unfortunately, this is not a simple situation. Access to bank accounts and authority in business, property, and personal transactions is something that must be granted through the court. Guardianship proceedings can accomplish this objective, but are often unpleasant affairs which are subject to costly and time consuming delays. Creating powers of attorney before the need arises is a far better option.
The Problem With Guardianships
A guardianship is when another person or agency is appointed by the court to act as another’s representative in legal or business matters and in handling their personal affairs. The New Jersey Department of Human Services (DHS) advises that guardianships are often used when adults suffer physical or developmental disabilities that are severe enough to prevent them from taking care of themselves. They may also be considered as a potential option in cases where injuries or illnesses leave people with permanent impairments and when older adults fall victim to dementia or other types of diseases.
While family members may seek a guardianship to protect the people they love, the DHS advises that they should only be used as a last resort and in extreme cases. Problems associated with guardianship proceedings include:
- It removes the individual’s fundamental right to self-determination.
- It generally make the individual feel threatened and defenseless.
- It requires proof that the person is impaired to a degree that they are unable to care for themselves,
- It increases the likelihood of disputes among family members over whether to take this action and who will act as guardian.
- As it is part of the public record, guardianship proceedings may be viewed as an invasion of privacy and can be humiliating for all involved.
How a POA can Protect You and Those You Love
While a family member’s intentions in terms of seeking guardianship proceedings for older adults and others suffering from lingering disabilities may be good, there is a better way to address the situation. Establishing a legal power of attorney (POA) is something that accomplishes many of the same objectives but can be done simply in our Milltown probate attorney’s office and before an actual need ever occurs.
Under the New Jersey Statutes, powers of attorney legally authorize one person or group (such as a bank or attorney’s office) to act on behalf of another in handling their personal, financial, and business affairs in the event they are unable to do so on their own. It allows the individual covered under the POA to name the person who will represent them in advance while also setting certain terms, limits, and other provisions on the agreement. There are two basic types of POAs:
- A durable power of attorney: This is generally preferred as it automatically goes into effect if a person is incapacitated.
- A ‘springing’ power of attorney: This only goes into effect provided certain conditions are met and is more open to disputes.
Other documents we can create to protect you in the event the unexpected happens include health care powers of attorney, which authorizes a person you select to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, and a living will.
Contact Our Middlesex County POA Attorneys Today
As experienced Milltown family law attorneys, the Law Office of Jordan B. Rickards, Esq. can advise you on legal documents that can help protect you and your loved ones. To schedule a consultation, contact our office today.