Written by Arizona Elder Law Attorney Scott Jensen
Under the Arizona Long Term Care System, which is Arizona’s Medicaid program, certain individuals may be eligible for governmental help with the costs of long term care. However, planning ahead is critical when it comes to a person’s needs for long term care.
First ,it is important to have the correct estate planning documents put in place before the need arises for long term care. Some of these documents include a health care power of attorney, living will, and a durable financial power of attorney. I have seen on more than one occasion where a child or loved one of a person in need of long term care has reach out to help get affairs in order or help seek for long term care assistance. Unless that loved one has the correct documents or has received authority from the court, there can be very little done on the person’s behalf.
The most important documents relevant to this discussion are the power of attorney documents. First a Durable Financial Power of Attorney document allows a family member or loved one to help step into another person’s financial shoes. When putting this document in place there are certain formalities that must be met under Arizona law. Formalities include that a person creating a power of attorney must have mental capacity to execute the document and there must be an independent witness to sign in the presence of the person creating the document. This document is important when it comes to long term care planning because it allows financial authority to be given to the individual either before incapacity or authority can be given at the time incapacity arises. Once this authority vests, the agent under the document is able to help manage financial assets for the benefit of the person in need as well as execute a plan to help apply for long term benefits and protect the person’s assets.
The health care power of attorney, mental health care power of attorney and living will allow an agent to step in to the creator’s shoes from a medical standpoint. The Healthcare power of attorney allows the agent to make health care decisions on behalf of the creator. The mental health care power of attorney allows an agent to obtain mental health care treatment or possible hospitalization for cognitive issues. The living will allows a person to make end of life decisions ahead of time thus removing the burden of loved ones left having to make the decision. Without these health related documents, a loved one would have to go to the court and seek to obtain guardianship for the loved one which could be a costly and drawn out process.
There are many ways to plan ahead for the challenges that come with age and the possibility of long term care needs. Power of attorney documents are the first step to providing the way for loved ones to help in those times of need.