First, there will be a revised power of attorney for healthcare document. This new power of attorney form is quite controversial. While it appears to be shorter than the original power of attorney, it lacks some of the options for end-of-life decisions that are in the current version. There are those that feel the new power of attorney is an improvement and others that feel it is not. Perhaps time will tell.
Second, there will be new legislation addressing abuses in the caregiver industry. In-home caregiving has turned into a cottage industry often occupied by unskilled or even illegal workers. I am not talking about large organizations that take the effort and time to train their properly compensated employees. Rather, I am talking about the fly-by-night enterprises with no training and low wages; many times these caregivers are compensated well below the average market rates. What has happened over the years is that some fly-by-night operators become caregivers for the sole purpose of financially exploiting the senior. They become the senior’s friend, perform tasks for the senior and for his or her children, and eventually the caregivers or their family members receive gifts or dispositions by will from the senior. Now, there is legislation to make such transfers presumptively void. This presumption can be overcome by an independent third-party, such as an attorney, indicating that the gift was made without undue influence from the caregiver upon the senior. This new provision only applies to caregivers who are not family members. However, there is still plenty of pre-existing law on the books regarding abusive family members.
Finally, the governor will sign a new form of POLST into law. POLST is a medical order that stands for “physician orders for life-sustaining treatment.” This document has been available in Illinois for more than a year. This document is also generally reserved for people with very serious illnesses and those who may have less than one year to live. The new legislation will make changes to the form and provide an opportunity for more detailed treatment on the use of IVs, pain relief, feeding tubes, and eventual hospice solutions.
With the advent of all of these new tools, powers of attorney and advanced directives are the hallmarks of a bulletproof estate plan. If your powers of attorney documents are more than a year old, have them reviewed by a qualified elder law attorney. These documents must sustain you through the remainder of your life, so you want to have all the tools possible built into them.