How can I ensure that my domestic partner will be empowered to handle my medical care and financial decisions?

3 answers | Last updated: Sep 13, 2010
A fellow caregiver asked...

I have appointed my domestic partner as my agent in a durable power of attorney for healthcare and finances. My family members are only interested in getting money I receive from my pension and have hinted they will contest the DPA or even seek guardianship over me. I have ALS and my health will deteriorate to the point where I will be incapacitated. I ONLY want my domestic partner to make ALL decisions on my behalf. Is there a way to block the family from seeking control?

Expert Answers

Barbara Repa, a senior editor, is an attorney, a journalist specializing in aging issues, and the author of Your Rights in the Workplace (Nolo), now in its 10th edition.

You have taken good solid steps to ensure that your wishes are protected from a legal standpoint.

Check the ownership designations on other types of property or benefits you may own. You may also be able to name your partner as immediate beneficiary of property such as pension rights and the pay-on-death beneficiary of bank or savings accounts, would also strengthen your legal stance.

You might also reaffirm your feelings with your doctors and any other medical professionals involved in your care so that there is no doubt in their minds about your wishes.

And finally, consider attaching a letter to both or your powers of attorney simply stating that you want to have your partner make decisions for you rather than any family members, and that you urge all involved to respect and honor your wishes. The letters will not have specific legal effect, but they can sometimes speak loudly to those who might be tempted to override them. And should there be any later attempted contest, they will, again, strengthen your position.

Community Answers

Magintob answered...

The AARP has published a very useful and straightforward document called Five Wishes which asks you to answer the 5 most basic questions around the decisions you wish for your death. It is a very very good document and it allows you to be very specific on "The Person I Want to Make Health Care Decisions For Me..." Check it out for good advice. You can cross out any parts of the answers that you do not want to apply so it leaves your wishes quite clear. That could strengthen your partner's position. May you be at peace.

Allfiredup answered...

There are attorneys who specialize in Domestic Partnership Rights and I strongly recommend that you consult one if at all possible! They are experts on the relevant laws in your state and know how to work with (or around) them to provide you and your partner the reassurance that you need and deserve!

They should also have some strategies to help protect your partner from your "family" after you become incapacitated. Here in Georgia, I know one attorney in this field who advocates filing restraining orders against each and every family member in a situation such as yours. In the worst cases, she advises her clients to 'disown' each problematic family member by name in their written will and to make a video of the same details along with the reasons for doing so. It's drastic, but effective!

Your declining health (or any number of other financial, spiritual or emotional factors) might make this suggestion unrealistic or even impossible for your situation, but....have you and your partner considered moving to a state (or Canada) that will provide you will all the same absolute legal protections afforded to "traditional marriages"?

SHAME on your family! Their day of reckoning will come and it won't be pretty....