The longer I practice law, the more issues I come across. With the pandemic and related changes over the past few years, more and more individuals have contacted me about naming agents for their financial or health care matters to ensure they will have someone to help them if they can no longer manage on their own. Naming someone would generally entail executing a Power of Attorney for financial matters and a designation of a Health Care Representative.
There has been a recent trend in these calls from individuals who have no one to name. This may be because individuals are living longer and the family and friends that once surrounded them are no longer around. I have sometimes heard the term “orphaned elders,” referring to people who are all alone at the later stages of their lives, almost like a child who has no parent figure to watch over them.
This can occur because they are an only child, or maybe they were never married and had no children. Or sometimes, it is just that the person keeps to themselves or just has no one they feel comfortable naming in these roles. I often hear people say “I don’t want to burden my friends with these responsibilities.”
When planning for your future, it is generally preferable to name someone who you have thoughtfully selected. If there is no one you can think of, one option is to request a voluntary conservator be appointed by your local probate court. The court would appoint someone from their list of appointees to step into this role. However, adding court oversight to the roles creates additional reporting tasks for the individual serving as well as additional fees, both things to be avoided if possible.
If you are able to name someone through a written document, ahead of your time of need, the matter will not involve the court system, and generally is the best option. If you choose to plan ahead and appoint an agent under a Power of Attorney or a document naming a Health Care Representative, and you do not have a family member or friend to name, there are individuals who serve in these roles as professionals. Sometimes bookkeepers or individuals with a financial background will serve as a financial power of attorney, and care managers, social workers or nurses might serve in the role of health care representative. There is no requirement that the person have a particular professional background. The most important thing is that they have the time to devote to your needs and that they have integrity, of course. If the person is a stranger, you can request that they be bonded through an insurance policy.
I am not aware of any professional organizations in Connecticut that employ individuals just to serve in these roles, although I have come across these business models in other states.
If you would like to discuss your needs on this subject, I would be happy to consult with you to discuss and plan your options. You may reach me at (860)571-8988 or firstname.lastname@example.org.