Family First: The importance of listening when creating a power of attorney

This blog post is the third in a series of stories about how I help my clients protect their family members and assets through my services as an estate planning attorney. If you spot any similarities between these experiences and your own, please know that you can always call on me for assistance.

We’re all familiar with the old adage: “Ask and you shall receive.” 

When caring for an elderly relative, that sentiment becomes crucial.

Older voices can fade into the background at times, especially when the lives of family are so chaotic at times. With all the noise of daily life, we can overlook the important planning steps that need to be taken to ensure our older family members continue receiving the best health care and living their best lives.

It’s part of my mission as a family planning attorney to make sure your loved ones’ voices are clearly heard. 

Ms. Linda’s (name changed for the purposes of this post) simple story illustrates the importance of upholding the dignity of our parents and grandparents, honoring their wishes and respecting their place in our lives – even as their physical abilities fade.

Ms. Linda - Power of Attorney

Listening to Linda for her Last Will and Testament

I describe Ms. Linda as a classy lady because that’s exactly what she was. Even though she could not hold her head high due to Parkinson’s disease, she was clear of mind and resolute in what she wanted in her Will.

I met with Ms. Linda and her son, a retired military veteran who cut his career short to care for his mother. She was intent on setting about creating a Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney document. Ms. Linda’s son knew about honor, having participated in numerous missions. And that extended to his instinct to honor and care for his mom. 

I watched as he gently and patiently deferred to Ms. Linda as she struggled to express her needs and wishes. The tough and imposing demeanor of this military veteran melted away as he listened and learned from her.

I knew that with Ms. Linda’s physical limitations, it was important to get this right. I wanted her to know that she and her thoughts were valued. 

By the time our meeting ended, I understood every one of Ms. Linda’s desires as it related to her estate planning. I drafted her Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney that granted her son the privilege and responsibility to serve as her agent and attorney-in-fact.

  • Testator’s full name and date of Last Will and Testament.
  • Testator’s marital status and history, including children from each marriage.
  • The designated legatees or recipients of testator’s property.
  • Alternative legatees, in case named legatees pre-decease testator. 
  • Particular items of property such as heirlooms and who is to receive each item, if applicable.
  • Designation of Executor for the estate and an alternative Executor.
  • If married and testator dies first, usufruct of the marital home to spouse, if desired.
  • Notarization and signature of two witnesses who must be present when testator signs the Will. 

 

GLOSSARY:

Testator: A person who has made a will or given a legacy.
Legatee: A person who receives a legacy.
Usufruct: The right to enjoy the use and advantages of another’s property short of the destruction or waste of its substance.
Executor: A person or institution appointed by a testator to carry out the terms of their will.

The results of perfectly executed wishes

A few months later, Ms. Linda’s son called to let me know that his mother had passed away. I felt honored to be the lawyer this man chose to help his mother. I was even more honored that I could offer Ms. Linda some peace of mind and my assurance in the last months of her life that her wishes would be honored.

I then worked with the family to probate Ms. Linda’s Last Will and Testament as we began the process of handling her succession.

It was a plan conceived by a classy lady and executed exactly as she wished. 

Listening attentively to Ms. Linda’s expressed wishes allowed me to make sure they were precisely documented in her Will and, just as importantly, it gave dignity to a kind soul, a classy lady, in her time of need. 

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