The Power of The "Power of Attorney"

When my mom first asked me to prepare medical and financial power-of-attorney documents, I honestly thought she was being overly cautious. I lead a pretty adventurous life; as a diver and archaeologist, I have the opportunity to do pretty amazing things in pretty spectacular places.

I’ve gone to fairly deep depths in far-away places without hospitals. I’m out of the country once a year, if not more. Considering that I have a bad track record of getting hurt, there’s really no wonder why she’s always about one step away from a heart attack.

So to put her mind at ease, I told her that I would fill them out. As I lived out-of-state, my stepfather had to draw up North Carolina power of attorney documents and send them with me after the Christmas holiday….where they sat in my drawer for about six months, untouched and blank. Between school, work, and being out of the country, I just felt I never had the time to do it. But finally, if only to get her to stop nagging me, I made an appointment with the school’s notary public.

I quickly read over the papers, asked my friend Maddie to come with me as a witness, and we walked into the notary office. The notary read over the paperwork thoroughly, and found the one thing I overlooked – I needed a second witness. So, he ducked into the hallway and asked his co-worker to come into the office and be another witness. The co-worker scanned the paperwork and after reading a specific section, said “I don’t think I can be a witness. It states that she has to be of sound mind, and I don’t know her, so how can I say she is of sound mind?” He left the office unwilling to sign, and along the way, tells every other co-worker that little stipulation, and discourages them from signing as well. Seriously.

I knew of two other friends who worked nearby, and frantically called them. No answer. Maddie encouraged me to call our boss at the Dive Office which was a five minute walk away. I gave him a call, explained the bizarre situation, and cashed in a few favors. Thankfully, he walked into the office a few minutes later and watched me sign the papers. Unfortunately, there was one final hiccup.

As the notary continued to read the papers, he noticed that North Carolina requires a witness to the witnesses signing the documents. Even though it was just a witness to the witnesses, the notary’s co-worker still refused to act as a witness. At this point, Maddie and my boss are laughing at the insanity of the situation while I’m banging my head against the table in frustration. Luckily, my boss knew one of the desk workers out front and pulled her in to be our witness. I think I’ve used up all my favors with him. Finally, the papers were signed.

Reading this, you’re probably thinking “That sounds far too complicated!” Was it entirely longwinded and torturous? Yes. Would I do it again? Yes. Not only does it put my family at ease, but it’s also worth it to know that my requests will be honored if I’m hurt, whether it be in a far-away country or right outside my front door. Not only do I have my affairs in order, but this completely convoluted process encouraged my boss to do the same. He told me that he and his wife didn’t have anything like this prepared and that watching a 26 year old do it was eye-opening. Accidents can happen anywhere, anytime – it’s much better to be prepared than not.

Stephanie Soder, Daughter – Michelle Poole

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Thank you for the guest blog Stephanie and sharing your story!

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jeffrey bellomo

Jeffrey R. Bellomo, Esquire is a Certified Elder Law Attorney by the National Elder Law Foundation under authorization of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court. As the owner of Bellomo & Associates, LLC he advises families about the legal challenges facing them today. He counsels clients and provides solutions on: Asset Protection, Special Needs Trusts, Wills, Trust Design, Guardianships, Medicaid and Estate Planning & Administration. His mission is to provide professional caring service to all his clients.

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