Know The Law: Preparing for Health Care Needs

November 25, 2013

Published in the Union Leader

Q. My elderly, long-divorced father has ignored making any legal preparations for his care down the road. He is still healthy, but in his 80’s. How can I convince him to prepare the documents we need to ensure that he’ll be cared for?

A. It can be challenging for adults to admit that they may very well need assistance with their health care, and the finances they’ll need to manage that care, at some point in time. But you are smart to encourage your father. Taking action in healthier years will keep him in control of many critical variables that can profoundly affect his quality of life down the road. It also helps to prevent conflict among family members, as well as the expenses associated with such conflict. Some adults can be motivated by the opportunity to take away that burden from those they love.

If you can get him to do one thing, his best step would be to execute power of attorney, (“POA”) documents for his health care and finances. These are legal documents which he would execute while he is healthy, and in which he would name an individual whom he wishes to handle his decisions if a doctor concludes that he requires assistance at a later point in time.

New Hampshire laws require specific language to be contained in the POAs or they are not valid, so it is important that he seek legal advice. The individual he names will be his advocate when he needs help, so it is also important to select an individual he trusts. He will also want to have a discussion with the named individual about whether he/she is willing to assume this responsibility should the need arise, and be clear regarding his wishes.

You may want to explain to him what will happen should he not take the time to execute a POA. Ultimately, if he is having difficulty handling his finances or medical care on his own, someone will need to go to court in order to request that a legal guardian be appointed for him. Family members are notified of the proceedings and are given an opportunity to participate. If there is any disagreement between family members regarding the need for a guardianship or who should be appointed as your guardian, your family can anticipate an expensive, stressful, and time consuming legal battle. It is fair to say that most adults would prefer not to spend their hard-earned money in this manner.

Andrea Daly can be reached at

Know the Law is a bi-weekly column sponsored by The McLane Law Firm.
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