Estate planning is critical, even though we often make excuses for avoiding it. Making decisions about how worldly possessions will be distributed upon one's death is part of the process, but it's not the only part that should be involved in estate planning for California residents. It is also critical to make decisions regarding personal care should one become incapacitated due to illness or injury.
Assigning a designated representative and/or assigning powers of attorney are difficult but necessary decisions. Essentially, by making these decisions, a designated person is given the power to decide how one should be cared for when not able to make the decisions on their own behalf. It's important to ensure that the selected person would make the kinds of decisions one would make for them.
One woman knows how important these decisions can be and how unexpectedly life can change. She and her mother were at their rented apartment in California, where they had been visiting family members. The woman's mother was getting ready for bed when all of a sudden her speech became incoherent.
The owner of the California home called 911 at the request of ailing woman's daughter, who stayed by her mother's side. Even though the medical event seemed to pass quickly, the ambulance came and took the woman to the hospital, her daughter riding along. The mother spent less than 24 hours in the hospital, but it was long enough to give the daughter a serious wake up call. Her mother had suffered a mini-stroke and although she was okay, things easily could have gone differently.
Had the woman been unable to make decisions for herself -- had she been unconscious, for example -- decisions regarding her care would have to have been made by someone else. If she had not previously assigned medical power of attorney or had a living will, there would have been some question as to who had the legal right to make those decisions on the woman's behalf. That could have cost potentially life-saving time had the woman's stroke been more serious. Creating a living will and assigning power(s) of attorney are relatively straightforward legal processes that can save precious time at the most critical moments.
Source: The Family Goes Strong, "Caring For a Parent When a Medical Emergency Strikes," The Aging Diva, Nov. 18, 2011