Most of us don’t warrant news coverage like Frank Fitz, of “American Pickers,” , or John Singleton, Director of “Boys N the Hood,” but each story could apply to us.

Each man had a stroke.  It seems neither had any sort of “permission slips,” in place for who could assist them medically or financially in case of such an emergency. In Mr. Singleton’s case his family immediately began fighting over who should be named Guardian and Conservator. In Mr. Fitz’s case a “friend” is being named Guardian and a local bank as Conservator.  Each man had/has significant business interests.Both men’s situations played/are playing out in public because neither had existing documents in place – Health Care Proxies, Durable Powers of Attorney. Is this something we would want in the public domain about us?

In order have a guardian appointed, for an adult (in MA), we (the adult) must have “an inability to receive and evaluate information or make or communicate decisions to such an extent that the individual lacks the ability to meet essential requirements for physical health, safety, or self-care” (MGL Chpt. 190B, Art V, Sect 5-501(9)). 

This requires getting a medical determination of “incapacity” and going to court to have someone appointed – $$$.  Is the person who speaks up, petitions and is appointed the person we would have chosen ourselves?  

It’s a similar threshold for a conservator – someone who handles our financial and legal affairs when we cannot.  This is a lot of power…is the person who speaks up and gets appointed someone we would have chosen?  

Sometimes, it is necessary to appoint guardians and conservators, but not “usually.”  A private, and generally less expensive ways to address these needs, by working with an estate attorney to have a Health Care Proxy and Durable Power of Attorney created naming people of OUR choosing to help us out when we need it.  Each document can fulfill the roles described above, respectively, and can do so without petitioning the courts and starting a “public” process.  

Once signed, these documents are available immediately.  This is important for our financial matters – Mr. Singleton’s stroke was April 17.  On April 30 he was due to sign a “lucrative agreement,” and not being able to sign on that day “will mean a big financial loss.”  It also matters health-wise.  If we need immediate treatment and we cannot communicate for ourselves, valuable time is lost, waiting for the court appointment, in receiving that treatment and that may impede our recovery.   

We also don’t know where we will need health assistance.  Health Care Proxies are based in the states we live in but work wherever we need the care.  Alternatively, if we have to get a guardian appointed outside of Massachusetts, someone will need to deal with that state’s courts and laws.  “Having to go through Massachusetts courts can be difficult enough, but going through another state’s courts would be even more exhausting if we find we need this level of care outside of Massachusetts.” (see News– Estate Planning Considerations For Your College Bound Kid, 08/04/2022

Anyone over 18 years old should have these two documents in place, minimally.  Let’s work together to get a team of YOUR choosing in place in case you find you need help, for a short or longer period of time. Let’s get you started!

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