After a Delaware resident’s health begins to fail is not the time to think about wills, powers of attorneys and trusts. Estate planning decisions should be made as far in advance of health problems as possible. Otherwise, there is a danger that any of the decisions made could be out of convenience rather than careful thought and consideration to how those decisions will affect the life of the individual and surviving family members.

For instance, even though an 82-year-old man had a will, he did not have a power of attorney in place in the event that he became unable to take care of his finances himself. He broke his hip, and when his mental and physical health began to decline, the woman who was taking care of him brought in one of his nephews to help. Thereafter, his nephew was appointed as his financial agent in a power of attorney drafted by the nephew’s attorney.

The nephew took the opportunity to use his uncle’s money for his personal expenses. He even transferred the home into his name. When his uncle died, the New York probate court required the nephew to return the home and the money to the estate.

If the elderly man’s estate planning had been complete and done before his health began to deteriorate, he might not have chosen this particular nephew to be his agent. Delaware residents should use this man’s story as a cautionary tale regarding putting off estate planning until it is needed. Choosing the people who are tasked with ensuring that an individual’s wishes are carried out takes time. The choice should not be made because there is an urgent need and a lack of options.

Source: poughkeepsiejournal.com, “Make sure power of attorney is done right“, Bernard A. Krooks, Sept. 30, 2016