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Preventing Elder Abuse

Would you want your ex to make life and death decisions for you?

A recent article I read about Gary Coleman, the former child actor from Diff’rent Strokes, highlighted why it is so important to register your estate planning documents with Estate Protect, including your Power of Attorney for Personal Care and your Advanced Care Directive.  This is an example of how Estate Protect can help ensure that your wishes with respect to your medical care can be carried out when you are unable to communicate them on your own. 

In May 2010, Gary called his ex-wife because he was in medical distress following a fall.  She called 911 and Gary was brought to the hospital where he fell into a coma.  Although Gary had an Advanced Care Directive that stated he wanted his life to be prolonged as long as possible, the hospital followed his ex-wife’s instructions and removed Gary from life support.  Gary died shortly thereafter.

Under the law, Gary’s ex-wife did not have the authority to make such a decision on his behalf, but it seems that she did not disclose the divorce to the hospital.  Had Gary been registered with Estate Protect, the hospital would have had the correct information available to it. It would have been advised of Gary’s marital status and been given access to his relevant registered documents, including his Advanced Care Directive.  Gary’s Trusted Contacts would also have been notified so that they could have intervened if they felt it was appropriate.

Another takeaway from Gary’s story is that there is no “minimum” age for preparing an estate plan or registering with Estate Protect.  Gary was only 42 when he died, but he had a long history of medical problems including kidney transplants and heart surgery.  It seems he took the right steps to document his wishes, but this was of little effect since there was no way to ensure that the hospital actually had all the relevant information available to them.  Registration with Estate Protect would have made sense given Gary’s circumstances.   

It is impossible to know whether Gary would have recovered had he not been removed from life support.  But, had he been registered with Estate Protect, at the very least, the people authorized to make decisions for him would have been making them.  Contact us to learn more about how Estate Protect can help protect you or your loved ones.        

Erin MacKenzie