One of the things I love about my practice is that I can help domestic partners prevent problems. One of the things I hate about my practice is having to tell domestic partners when it is too late to plan.
A few weeks ago, two partners came to see me to get their documents together. They told me ahead of time that he was experiencing “the first stages” of dimentia. When I met with them, she did all of the talking and he sat, smiled, and nodded amiably. She told me that they had been together for 17 years, that she had been taking care of him for some time, but now that he was starting to slip a little, the family was starting to get a little nosy. More than anything, she was starting to feel a lot of frustration because the bank had made it clear that he had to give them instructions on everything. The doctor had also been contacted by the family and was told that, although she was his partner, that she didn’t have a healthcare power of attorney. Now The doctor was not following her instructions and not giving her information. And he had a reasonable amount of assets, so it may simply be that the kids were looking to protect their father… but then again, it could be to make sure their inheritance was as large as possible. But since he had yet to talk to me, I was starting to get a little worried.
I addressed both of them, told them that we could put together the right documents so she could take care of financial and healthcare matters, but he had to let me know that this is what he wants. He definitely needed a durable general power of attorney and a healthcare power of attorney, and we could explore the possibility of wills or a revocable living trust to provide for inheritance. I had yet to hear from him what HE wanted, so I asked him. The answer stopped everything…
“Well, doctor, my tooth is really hurting, so whatever you can do to make the pain stop…”
It was then that my fears were realized. He was WAY past the first stages; he actually thought I was his dentist.
Unfortunately, there was nothing I could do to help at this point. In order for me to help them create the documents they needed, or more appropriately she needed, he needed to have enough “mental capacity” to direct me to help him. Just the fact that I spent ten minutes outlining some of the basics around e legal documents and he thought I was his dentist meant he lacked that capacity.
She was very gracious when I told her there was nothing I could do. In fact, she might have suspected before she even made the appointment. But the fact is they waited too long.
While I love being able to help partners plan ahead in case a crisis happens, once the crisis is already happening, there may be little we can do. And that’s news I don’t want to give and they don’t want to hear. Knowing the right information can make a world of difference for domestic partners, and that is one of the reasons I put together a free, online North Carolina domestic partner planning system with a recorded interview for download and several e-mails that elaborate on some of the bigger items. To sign up for the system with no obligation to buy anything, please go to:
You can always unsubscribe, but at least you’ll have good information BEFORE a problem pops up. For non-partners, or for just a more general overview, please go to www.raleightrusts.com for a similar information system.