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Horizon Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog

Sunday, October 31, 2021

What Can We Learn About Estate Planning from Britney Spears' Situation?

The shocking truth that we all need to realize is that what happened to Britney Spears could happen to any of us. A judge could take away your control over your income, the assets you have built up over the years, your right to make medical decisions, and nearly everything else that matters to you. A court could appoint someone to make all of your decisions, even against your wishes.

The good news is that you can take steps now to protect yourself from an outcome like what Britney Spears has experienced. You can sign legal documents now to select people you trust to act on your behalf if you should ever become incapacitated, permanently or temporarily, from an illness, accident, or some other reason. A California elder law attorney can draft these papers and explain how they work.

Documents You Should Make or Update Now

There are three legal documents that can provide a great measure of protection for you if you want to avoid a Britney Spears-type situation. Nothing is 100 percent guaranteed because sometimes people break the law and get away with it, but if you want to slash your risks, these are the papers you should get:

  1. Financial power of attorney. This document lets you, not a judge, choose the person who will manage your money and assets if you become unable to do so for yourself.
  2. The medical power of attorney. You can select who will handle your healthcare issues if you cannot do so. You will want to make sure that this person has similar opinions and practices about medical issues as you do, or that you firmly believe they will honor your wishes if you differ about healthcare. Be sure to sign a HIPAA authorization – without one, the person you designate cannot look at your medical records or talk to your doctors.
  3. Power of attorney for personal care. This document covers the day-to-day things that a court-appointed guardian would do for you. For example, the person you choose would manage your living arrangements, transportation, nutrition, pets, and other topics that do not fall within your financial or medical power of attorney documents.

These papers need to be “durable,” meaning that they remain in effect if you become incapacitated. Many legal papers become null and void if you lose capacity.

If you already made some or all of these papers in the past, it might be a good idea to pull them out of the drawer and read over them again. Think about the people you named to act on your behalf and evaluate whether you are comfortable having them possibly make decisions for you. If you are less than satisfied with those choices, you might want to think about making changes.

What Being Declared Incapacitated Means

When a court finds a person to be incapacitated, the individual can lose many rights that we take for granted as adults, like:

  • Entering into contracts
  • Making a new will
  • Getting married
  • Choosing your doctors, medications, and healthcare treatments

These are just a few examples of what you could experience if found incapacitated. A California elder law attorney can review your situation and offer guidance. Call our office today to set up a consultation.


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