Q: I have been taking care of my mother for the past 5 years! She has become sick and has given me a power of attorney! Could I have a living Will prepared if I have a power of attorney! (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Are you are asking whether you, as Agent under a POA, can sign a living will for your mother? The answer is unfortunately no. She needs to sign her own living will, will and power of attorney. She can do so only if she is competent. Ask her doctor if she is competent to sign these documents. You can also ask a lawyer to visit her and assess her for competency
Q: My mother wants to be resuscitated and I am her POA. I informed the hospital where she is now about her wishes. Hospital had an ethics committee meeting and decided that she should be “Do Not Resuscitate”, against my consent. What can be done? Thank you. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: Against your consent doesn’t matter, this decision can only be based on what your mother wants. You need to verify more information. Does this POA you reference give you authority to act on her behalf for medical needs? Do you have a separate Medical POA? If you do not have medical powers, the hospital may not be required to release any medical information to you. I think you need to verify if A) your mother signed a hospital DNR card and who has it, B) your mother has a Living Will and who has it (her doctor, the hospital, etc.) C) your mother is competent and if she is not D) does this POA give you authority to make medical decisions. Once you can answer these questions, you should attempt once more to speak with the manager of this facility. If you still get nowhere, hire an elder law attorney versed in nursing home practice to consult with and if necessary retain him or her.
Q: My mother had a stroke and is unable to care for herself. My father passed away 4 years ago. I’m their only child. How can I get power of attorney? Am I able to take over the house they lived in? Neither one had a will or living will. There is more I want to ask and know but I either talk on the phone or in person. (Turtle Creek, PA)
A: You need to find a local attorney who handles wills, POA’s and estates. Find someone who will give you a free or low-cost consultation. Your mother can only sign a POA or other documents, if she is competent. If she is not, you may need to have an attorney petition the court to be her guardian. If mother is competent, an attorney can prepare a POA, Will and Living Will at a reasonable cost.
Q: Currently I am the primary care person for my mother. She started to decline last year after she had congestive heart failure. She is at home and my brothers and I cover time in-between. There are times she goes without coverage for a few hours. She is starting to have a fear of being alone. We are wanting to possibly work with a lawyer to help guide us through the process and find a solution that will last without bankrupting her in two years. (Pittsburgh, PA)
A: It is good that you recognize the need for an attorney. No one can answer exactly what legal services your mother needs without knowing more information, including the extent of her assets and how they are titled, her health, her health insurance coverage, her long- term disability coverage if any and her competency, it will likely be necessary to have the attorney draft a General Durable Power of Attorney, Last Will and Testament and a Living Will. Advice on the potential of Medicaid funding may also be helpful.
Q: This is for my dad. He wants to make sure that everything is in place because he knows I will be killing him soon.
A: You both will need a lawyer. Him for estate planning documents and you for homicide charges. Some people try to pull estate planning documents from the internet and do it themselves, but this is not advised. The documents from the internet are sometimes not specifically compliant with the laws of the state in which you live, nor address the specific needs of your situation. Call several lawyers to determine who is in your price range and who you are comfortable with. The attorney can also refer you to a good criminal defense attorney. Perhaps an insanity defense will be appropriate.
Q: My father has a Living Will that says do not resuscitate but Dr. Says it is up to the oldest child, my sibling. Who is correct?
A: A valid legal living will with an appointed and designated agent/surrogate who is ready and willing to act, should be honored by a hospital or medical provider. Your father’s Living Will needs to be in full compliance with Pennsylvania law. If you are the designated agent or surrogate on such a legal Living Will, the end of life decision should be made by you as directed in the Living Will, regardless of what the doctor or hospital says. I have had certain hospitals that inform next of kin that they are not obligated to honor a Living Will, and I really don’t understand it. The Living Will I use in my practice is taken directly out of the Pennsylvania Probate, Estate and Fiduciary statute. It seems that some medical providers will only honor a Living Will or DNR code document drafted or endorsed by their lawyer, for whatever reason. You should have a meeting with the doctor or the social worker, tell them your position and ask them to explain their reason. If there is no resolution, change doctors. If that is not possible, hire a lawyer to contact the doctor or staff. If there is still no resolution, the lawyer can file a petition in which it is requested that the doctor or hospital appear in court and tell the judge why they do not conform to Pennsylvania law.