Why All Married Couples Need Durable Powers of Attorney

April 20th, 2015 by beasleyferber

Our office was recently involved in a very sad case in which a husband had to seek a court guardianship over his wife. The couple, married for more than 50 years, had a wonderful life. They raised three happy and successful children, owned their home for many years, and had saved up enough money so that they were financially secure. The wife started to show signs of dementia. Over the years, her condition got worse and worse, As with many dementia patients, she became paranoid. She thought that her family was stealing from her, she began to think that her loving husband of 50+ years was having an affair with a younger woman, and she accused her neighbors of breaking into her house and stealing her jewelry. She continued to decline, and became combative. Because she was not able to conduct business any more, and because she never signed a power of attorney, her husband had to apply to the court to become her legal guardian.

Because she was so paranoid, she contested the guardianship. There was a hearing, and she had an attorney of her own, and it became a court battle. Husband had to testify against his wife – whom he loved dearly – and was subject to being cross examined. The children had to take sides, and strangers had to become involved in the family’s private affairs. Two sets of lawyers had to be paid, at significant expense. Eventually, the court appointed the husband guardian over his wife, and he had to buy a bond through an insurance company, which is not inexpensive by any means, and he has to file detailed annual financial reports to the court. Because the house is owned jointly, and her half is subject to the guardianship, the husband will have to get permission of the court if he ever wants to sell the house.

As you can see, the situation has become an expensive and emotionally painful horror show. The tragedy of it all is that it could have been avoided very simply and cheaply, if the spouses had signed powers of attorney for health and financial affairs. Had they done so, the husband would have had control over the situation pretty much automatically, and the entire court proceeding, and all that it entailed, would never have had to occur.

Don’t force your family to go through anything like this. Make sure that you put a proper power of attorney in place.

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