Making It Legal

July 2005
Journal of Financial Planning;Jul2005, Vol. 18 Issue 7, p16
Academic Journal
This article presents the views of Bernard Krooks, managing partner of New York-based Littman Krooks LLP, on the increasing number of clients in the U.S. who are seeking to prepare their advance directives, as of July 2005. That is the good news, the bad news is that some state legislatures are now proposing disturbing new laws. About a dozen are percolating, including the Alabama Starvation and Dehydration Prevention Act, which would bar the withdrawal of a feeding tube without explicit written instructions, and one in Michigan that would prevent an adulterer from making medical decisions for an incapacitated spouse. Krooks offers some specific points about the legal issues to consider in discussions between financial advisor and client on end-of-life planning. The advance directive documents should not be overly specific. Krooks said that clients are now coming in and wanting very specific language that covers some of the horror story aspects of Terri Schiavo. But too much specificity can be restrictive and might not cover every situation in the future. Avoid combining the health care proxy or medical power of attorney with a broader power of attorney that covers financial matters. Krooks advised separate documents. The financial power of attorney can cover all manner of financial decisions, including selling a home, paying taxes, liquidating investment portfolios and incurring debt. An Alzheimer's diagnosis does not mean one cannot sign legal documents. As long as these are periods of lucidity where the client can understand what she or he is signing, a health care proxy is valid. Understand who your client really is. Although the firm of Krooks wants to advise the entire family, it is the individual who is the client. Understand your own role. The financial advisor must understand end-of-life issues, educate clients about them and encourage and facilitate dialogue about death, dying and preparing for it.


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