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How to Help an Older Person Move Back Home

Photo of older lady wearing sun glasses looking over sea. She wanted to leave Arizona and move back home.

Arizona has its attraction. Warm weather. (No snow.) Lots of restaurants and stores. But for a lot of people it’s never really home. Retirees decide to move back their their original home state for a number of reasons, such as being closer to family and friends. We sometimes help an older person who has had enough of Arizona, and wants to go back home. Sometimes they want to move back to their home town here in the U.S. And sometimes they want to move to their home country. This gets tricky if the older person has dementia or health problems. This blog is about how to help an older person move back home.

If the person is managing his own money, he can just buy his own plane ticket, hire a moving company, and go. Right? But older people often have a hard time coordinating all of these details (especially if the person’s memory and mental abilities are beginning to fade). Here is a short summary of some of the details. (Do not rely on this list. Be sure to contact an attorney to guide you through the process. Otherwise, you could be at risk of violating a law.)

Call Magellan Law at 602-443-4888 if you have any questions. Or send us a note here.

How can a Health Care Power of Attorney Help?

If you are a health care agent, you can help take the person to a physician and make sure that travel is going to be safe. If the person you’re helping has capacity to sign legal documents, you could have him sign a HCPA. Definitely go to an attorney who can help ensure that the person is actually aware of what he/she is signing. Don’t go cheap on this. A lawyer will save you in case someone later makes accusations that the person didn’t know what he was signing.

Also, a HCPA probably will not authorize you to buy plane tickets, list the house for sale or hire a moving company. For that, you need a Durable General Power of Attorney.

Can a Durable General Power of Attorney Help Move an Older Person?

This is the document that allows you to make contracts, use the person’s money and conduct business. Theoretically, you could use a Durable General Power of Attorney to get access to the older person’s bank accounts (so can pay for the move). I say “theoretically,” because banks are increasingly reluctant to honor Power of Attorney documents. It’s gotten to the point lately that a bank will say you have to use their own power of attorney document; and then when it’s signed they still won’t honor it. If the person doesn’t currently have a DGPA (or if the agent listed doesn’t want to help) you could go to an attorney and see about getting a new document signed. Definitely use a lawyer, because someone could later accuse you of making the person sign something without knowing what it was. This could get you into real hot water legally speaking. It’s best not to take short cuts here.

By the way, the word “Durable” in “Durable General Power of Attorney” refers to the document surviving even after the person who signed it has developed dementia or is otherwise no longer able to make sound decisions.

Using a Guardianship and/or Conservatorship to help Move the Older Person.

A guardianship is a court-appointed person who makes decisions about health care. The conservatorship is for managing the person’s money. If you are a guardian and you are want to move the older person out of state, get the court to approve the desired move. Don’t do the “act now and ask permission later.” If the person has a heart attack on the plane or gets lost in the airport, you could end up in trouble.

When in Doubt, Hire a Probate and Elder Law Lawyer.

Attorney Paul Deloughery has been involved in moving a number of older people back home where they wanted to be. In one case, the daughter was trying to keep her parents here in Arizona against their wishes, and Mr. Deloughery helped the older couple move back home to Louisiana. Each case is different, and you need to talk to an experienced attorney about moving the persson out of state before you do it. For a Complimentary Strategy Session about your situation, you can call us at 602-443-4888 or go here: Contact Us.

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Duties of a Guardianship with Mental Health Powers

Photo of scrabble letters spelling "Mental Health"

If your loved one needs to be committed for inpatient mental health treatment in a locked facility, then you are looking at what’s called a “Guardian with Mental Health Powers”. This is a complicated process, and I strongly encourage you to get the help of an attorney. You will need to prove that your loved one is incapacitated as a result of a mental disorder and is likely to be in need of inpatient mental health care and treatment within the next 12 months. See A.R.S. Section 14-5312.01. This authority would allow the guardian to place the person to a “level one behavioral health facility” (aka, a locked mental health facility).

If the subject of mental health is new to you, please read up on it. It isn’t always easy to tell if someone has a mental health issue, or a physical one. (Here is an article about that subject.)  In this country, we joke about people being “crazy” and are baffled by the number of homeless people. In truth, many people with mental illness want help. It isn’t fun to be seriously depressed or confused or addicted. And sometimes a family member or friend needs to step up to the plate and go to court to get permission to provide the help that is needed. This also isn’t fun. First, you will need to get a health care professional’s report stating the need for a guardianship with mental health powers. Then you will involve going to court. If you are the one trying to get appointed as guardian, a court investigator will call you or meet with you to make sure you are a responsible person. There will be a court appointed attorney whose job it is to protect his client (your loved one) and push back on your efforts. This is all part of the process. The purpose is to make it difficult to take someone’s legal rights away.

If you are appointed as a guardian with mental health powers, you are required to report annually, in writing, with respect to your ward’s residence, physical and mental health, whether there still is a need for a guardian, and your ward’s financial situation. Your report is due each year on the anniversary date of the Letters of Appointment.
You must be conscious at all times of the needs and best interests of your ward. If the circumstances that made a guardianship necessary should end, you are responsible for petitioning to terminate the guardianship and obtaining your discharge as guardian. Even if the guardianship should terminate by operation of law, you will not be discharged from your responsibilities until you have obtained an order from this Court discharging you.

If you have any questions, call us at 602-443-4888.