Decisions relating to an aging parent’s medical care can often spur conflict among siblings. If you and your siblings cannot agree on an overall plan, or even on a specific medical procedure, for a parent it can present a serious problem. Knowing your practical and legal options when a disagreement occurs can help. The Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group, APC discuss what happens when children disagree on medical treatment for a parent.
When you and your siblings were children, your parents cared for, supported, and made important decisions for you. At some point, you and your siblings reached adulthood and learned to take care of yourselves. Most of us do not consciously realize that our parents are aging right along with us. That means that your parents will likely reach a point of declining health eventually. If you have passed that point, you may now be experiencing a role reversal of sorts. You and your siblings now need to care for, support, and make decisions for one or both parents. Accepting the fact that a parent can no longer safely care for himself/herself is difficult enough from an emotional standpoint. It can also result in practical problems if you and your siblings cannot agree on how to care for that parent – or even if the parent needs care. If your parent has reached a point where the law considers him/her to be incapacitated, it means your parent cannot make health care decisions. Consequently, someone else must make them. If you and your siblings are the closest relatives alive, and you cannot agree on a plan of care, it creates friction within the family as well as a significant legal problem.
Is There an Advance Directive in Place?
If your parent executed the appropriate advance directive, it should resolve the issue once and for all without the need for further action. In the State of California, a Power of Attorney for Health Care allows someone to appoint an Agent that makes decisions for them in the event they are unable to make those decisions because of incapacity at some point in the future. An Agent has the authority to do things such as consent, refuse to consent, or withdraw consent to medical treatment on behalf of the person executing the document. Find out if your parent executed a Power of Attorney for Health Care. Check with your parent’s estate planning attorney, family physician, and local hospital if you are unsure.
Options for Avoiding the Judicial System
If your parent did not execute the appropriate advance directive, there are some options that may help if your siblings are willing to participate. You might try counseling with a therapist who specializes in elder issues. You might also all agree to hire a geriatric care manager. A geriatric care manager is often a social worker or nurse who specializes in assessing a senior’s needs and coordinating the care and resources necessary to help them.
If all else fails, you may need to consider becoming your parent’s legal guardian. If he/she is truly unable to make decisions, then someone else needs to have the legal authority to do so. Petitioning to become your parent’s legal guardian will give you that authority. Because guardianship is the most restrictive option, and because your siblings have the right to object to your appointment, you should consider guardianship an avenue of last resort. Guardianship can be a complicated legal process. As such, you should consult with an experienced elder law attorney if you believe guardianship is the best option, particularly if you expect opposition to your petition.
Contact Los Angeles Estate Planning Attorneys
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions or concerns about estate planning, contact the experienced Los Angeles estate planning attorneys at Schomer Law Group APCby calling (310) 337-7696 to schedule an appointment.