One thing she left the legal world was an example of the importance of a Power of Attorney. There are different types of power of attorneys: Medical and Durable.
A power of attorney is an essential legal designation that gives another the power to handle business dealings, make medical decisions and more. James was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s in 2008—the same year she also appointed her son, Donte James, power of attorney over her estate instead of her husband of 41 years.
The son (from a previous marriage) and her husband argued in court over whether this appointment was legally valid since the R&B singer was already showing signs of memory loss at the time of the meeting. The son and husband disagreed about not only who should control James’ money but also how much money to spend on her care and where she should receive her medical care—at home with her husband or at a nursing home. In the end, the son remained in his role as power of attorney, but the husband was granted a specific amount to care for his sick wife. This legal war was not only expensive but public and showed the importance of having a Medical and Durable Power of Attorney before there are any competency questions.
Here’s what you should take away from Etta James estate planning as it relates to choosing a power of attorney:
- Get your full estate plan in place now, including your power of attorney
- Talk to family and friends about your decisions (this is especially true if you think there might be some family fighting)
- Make your intentions clear
- Update your estate plan often – every 2 to 3 years
- Even if you do not have much money and are in good health, the time to plan is NOW!
Estate planning should be done now, at whatever stage of life you are currently in, and you should update as your life change—divorce, children, disability, etc. When it comes to choosing the person best suited to serve as your power of attorney, it should ultimately be someone who will follow your wishes and act with your best intentions in mind. The scope of your power attorney can be as broad or as limited as you want. In the state of Texas, a power of attorney needs to be in writing and during a time when you are fully mentally able to make this critical designation. The Power of Attorney also needs to be notarized.
Family fighting when estate plans are unclear is incredibly common, even when the relationship is otherwise friendly. Ideally, you won’t ever have to invoke your power of attorney but if it is, either permanently or temporarily, then your power of attorney invoked according to your wishes. Fighting over any estate planning issue is expensive and completely avoidable. Most cases are at last $20,000, and if they last more than the first six months, they can continue to climb over $100,000.
Whether you know exactly what you want or need much guidance, do not make the mistake of trying to save money by putting this vital process off or downloading a form online. Estate planning does not have to be the morbid process so many people mistakenly think it is; it is also quicker, easier and more affordable than you think too. Get in touch with the Law Offices of Erin C. Callahan today to set up your in-home estate planning consultation today.don