Legal Question in Elder Law in North Carolina

What to do when a elder parent can not make important decisions

My Mother In Law has sever dementia as well as terminal lung cancer and can not make decisions in regard to her finances @ care. What steps do we need to take to oversee all of these aspects of her life.She has now become unable to dress, feed or bathe herself and no other family member seems to care except for my husband. I need immediate help and answers.

Asked on 11/21/05, 10:55 pm

1 Answer from Attorneys

Tate Davis Davis Elder & Disability Law Services

Re: What to do when a elder parent can not make important decisions

If your mother-in-law has the legal capacity to execute a Durable Power of Attorney, she can appoint you (or whomever she chooses) to handle financial affairs on her behalf. Likewise, a Health Care Power of Attorney would permit an agent to make important health decisions if she becomes unable to handle such decisions on her own.

However, you wrote that she suffers "severe dementia." If your mother-in-law is not able to execute a Power of Attorney, then you may need to petition for a Guardianship. A Guardian of the Estate is appointed to handle finances. A Guardian of the Person makes decisions about health and personal matters. A "General Guardianship" is a combination of the two.

If your mother-in-law has the ability to do so, executing a Power of Attorney is much preferable. Guardianships are generally expensive, burdensome and often create significant emotional distress.

I recommend that you contact an attorney experienced in handling guardianship and elder law matters to explore which option is best (whether your mother-in-law retains the legal capacity to sign powers of attorney).

Tate Davis

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Answered on 11/22/05, 2:06 pm

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