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Advance Directives are legal documents, prepared in advance of need, used to direct financial and medical affairs. Appointing an Agent under a Durable Financial Power of Attorney designates a person to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters. Appointing an Agent under a Power of Attorney for Healthcare identifies the person you select to make medical decisions if you are incapacitated. A Living Will (Directive to Physicians) is a document which specifies the types of medical care you would or would not want if you were terminally ill and incapacitated, providing useful guidance to your loved ones and medical team.

Many people choose to add a family member to their bank account for convenience, but joint accounts have potential pitfalls, including disinheriting heirs.  A good alternative is to appoint a trusted family member to act on your behalf through a Durable Power of Attorney.  Another option is to give your family member signature authority instead of joint ownership.  The best option may be to create a Trust to ensure that funds are disbursed according to your wishes.

A Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a legal document which names an Agent who can act if an individual is incapable of making a medical decision. The ability to make medical decisions is determined by a physician, and the threshold for capacity differs depending on the complexity of the decision. The Agent under a Power of Attorney for Healthcare only has authority to make decisions during the period of incapacity. Common causes of incapacity include loss of consciousness, delirium, severe psychosis, and advanced dementia.

In order for someone to be judged incapacitated, evidence of poor decision making would need to be brought before a judge who specializes in determining capacity.  If the judge rules that an individual is incapacitated, a guardian would be appointed.  Sometimes two guardians are appointed:  one to make financial decisions and the other to make health and personal decisions.  Often, less-restrictive alternatives to guardianship can be arranged with proper legal assistance.


Both General and Durable Powers of Attorney give your Agent the right to pay bills, sign documents or conduct financial transactions on your behalf. The authority of the Agent acting under a General POA ends if the principal becomes incapacitated, but an Agent acting under a Durable POA can act even if the principal has become incapacitated. Both documents go into effect immediately upon being signed, and both can be revoked.

DNR stands for Do Not Resuscitate. Medical personal are required by law to provide resuscitation in the State of Texas unless a person has signed an Out of Hospital DNR Form.  Resuscitation is traumatic to the body, and for an older person with osteoporosis or other health complications, the odds of surviving are very poor.  Some people choose not to endure these procedures.  Long-term care communities such as assisted living or memory care communities keep record of their residents who have completed an Out of Hospital DNR, so that their wishes are followed. This form must be signed by a physician, and is not completed by an attorney. The Texas Out of Hospital DNR form can be found here.

A Power of Attorney is a document which names a substitute decision maker for financial or medical matters. As long as the person who appointed the Agent (the Principal) under the Power of Attorney has not been judged incapacitated, the Power of Attorney designations can be revoked or changed at any time. Agents should be chosen based on their ability to act according to the Principal’s wishes.

Yes.  An attorney accredited with the VA can help determine if you qualify for this pension available to some war-time veterans, or their surviving spouses, whose monthly healthcare costs exceed their monthly income.  If you are having to draw from your savings to pay for assisted living or other health care costs, you may qualify for this benefit.

It’s a good rule of thumb to review your documents at least every three years, but changes don’t need to be made unless family circumstances have changed.  Many people think of changing their documents after a marriage, divorce, or death, but those are not the only reasons you may want to make a change.  Perhaps your appointed agent under a Power of Attorney is going through a physical or mental health crisis or the person you appointed executor of your will has made some poor decisions lately.  Documents should be updated to ensure your wishes are followed.

When choosing an agent under a Power of Attorney for Healthcare, consider the following:

  1. Choose someone who will talk with you now about your wishes, and who will do as you ask when the time comes.
  2. Choose someone who lives near you, or who could travel to be with you, if needed.
  3. Choose someone you trust with your life.
  4. Choose someone who can handle conflicting opinions from family, friends, and medical personnel.
  5. Choose someone who can be a strong advocate for you if a doctor or facility is unresponsive.

Often companies or individuals advertising for Free Medicaid Qualification are actually selling annuities or other financial products.  So while you may not pay any up-front fees, you will pay ongoing commission and other fees.  Also these individuals are not fiduciaries, meaning, they don’t have to recommend the financial products that are in your best interest.

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