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GUARDIANSHIPS AND YOUR POWER OF ATTORNEY

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By Lane V. Erickson, Idaho Estate Planning Attorney

I am a fan of both estate-planning and Star Trek. I grew up with Star Trek as a kid and watched every episode I could. Additionally, cover for the last 20 years I have worked as an estate planning attorney in Idaho helping individuals customize and create their own estate plans to meet their needs and help them avoid problems in the future. It’s for this reason that I was fascinated by the recent story of actress Nichelle Nichols who played the character of Lt. Nyota Uhura on the original “Star Trek” television series in the 1960s.

The 85-year-old actress was recently diagnosed with “moderate progressive dementia”, according to her doctor. Specifically, Nichols’ doctor described her condition as “major impairment of her short-term memory and moderate impairment of understanding abstract concepts, sense of time, place and immediate recall.”

Since the diagnosis, Nichols’ friends and family have been involved in fights over her estate and a guardianship/conservatorship. The main player in this saga is Nichols’ son Kyle Johnson, who brought the doctor who made the diagnosis in to the guardianship proceedings to testify. Johnson is attempting to get control of his mother’s estate from other people who he claims have “unduly exerted themselves into Ms. Nichols’ life to her detriment.” Since her diagnosis, four conservators have taken over Nichols’ financial and health-related decisions.

Gilbert Bell, a longtime friend of Nichols, supplied video and audio in which Nichols reportedly discusses her son’s efforts to gain control of her estate. “I’m the boss of me, Gil. He’s not the boss of me,” a voice on the recording said to be that of Nichols is heard to say.

From this news report and from these experiences we can all gain the same insight that would be helpful to each of us individually. The main thing we can learn is the importance of completing our own legal documents as part of our regular estate planning to make sure that we are in control of naming the individuals we want to help us in the event we can no longer take care of ourselves or our property, money, or other assets.

One of the most important documents that you can have as part of your estate plan is your Powers of Attorney. Through your durable power of attorney you can list an individual who would be responsible to care for your finances and property to benefit you so long as you were alive. This individual would be required to do nothing more than use your assets to benefit you. Additionally, a healthcare power of attorney gives you the ability to name an individual who can assist you with making healthcare decisions if you are no longer capable of making these on your own. The main takeaway is that both of these Powers of Attorney give you the ability to name who you want. Otherwise, a guardianship and or conservatorship is required where individuals can fight over who should be named. In the end, court proceedings allow the court to make a decision about who will do these things for you rather that allow you to make that decision for yourself.

ENLIST AN ESTATE PLANNING ATTORNEY TO HELP YOU

If you have any questions about your estate or how to simplify your plans for your family and loved ones, we can help.  Call us toll free at 877-232-6101 or 208-232-6101 for a consultation with Lane Erickson and the Racine Olson team of Estate Planning attorneys in Idaho. You can also email Lane Erickson directly at lane@racineolson.com. We will answer your questions and will help you solve your Idaho Estate Planning problems.

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