This poor woman had done the right thing. She saved considerable funds for her retirement and lived in a fully paid home that was in her name. She thought she was all set in case she might need more enhanced care as she aged. But what she didn’t do was sign a Continuing Power of Attorney, appointing a person to make decisions on her behalf if she became incapacitated.
Twenty years after her husband divorced her, she developed Parkinson’s disease and it became more and more difficult for her to care for herself. Her ex-husband still lived in the home during this time. But when the Welfare Department came to do a wellness check they were dismayed to find that not only was the house filthy and dilapidated, but the woman herself was extremely neglected. How could this have happened and what did the courts decide to do?
Had the woman prepared a Continuing Power of Attorney during her healthy years and submitted it to the General Guardian in the Justice Department, she would have been able to pre-assign who would manage her physical needs and financial assets in a manner of her own choosing in the event she was unable to.
But now, due to the Welfare Services report and the court custodian who was appointed to act on the woman’s behalf, it was determined that a caregiving company called “Gag L’Choseh” (roof for those who are invalid) would take over the woman’s physical care and management of her finances.
The ex-husband and son eventually approached the court with a request for both of them to take over the custodianship for her physical and financial care. He objected to an outside company coming in and claimed that when all these unfamiliar people started caring for the woman, her condition deteriorated.
The caregiving company countered with proof that the ex-husband was not qualified to care for the woman. They showed that even though he had been living in the home, there were accrued debts of about a million shekels to the utility companies: the municipality, the water department, electricity, and other service providers. And they pointed out that the ex-husband was motivated by the woman’s family deciding to sell her house to pay off the debts and he didn’t want to get kicked out.
Judge Yehoram Shaked said that the ex-husband’s conduct as well as his resolute denial of the debts linked to living in the house caused a strong doubt regarding good faith and he concluded that the appointment of the ex-husband as a custodian was not in the woman’s best interests. Consequently, the suit was dismissed with no obligation for court expenses.
It is very sad to see people who have saved for their retirement and future healthcare and yet have never given thought to appointing someone to look after their personal interests, in the manner of their own choosing should they be unable to make decisions for themselves. In their waning years they are subject to the largesse of relatives who are not aware of their choices, or do not place the interests of these elderly infirm people first. Sadder still is having to be dependent on the kindness of strangers.
One of the most important things we can do now, while we are healthy of body and mind, is to write a Continuing Power of Attorney. It is not something that should be put off.
You can familiarize yourself with a Continuing Power of Attorney in this video. And as always, please contact my office with your questions.