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Lamar Odom health scare highlights estate plan mishaps

Regardless of one's age or health, unexpected circumstances can leave a young person incapacitated and unable to make important health or financial decisions for him or herself. This is why it is essential that people of all ages have estate plans in place, and that they update those plans as life circumstances warrant. One lesson about the importance of keeping an estate plan current has been brought to light for Michigan residents due to the news-making health crisis of former NBA and reality TV star Lamar Odom.

The basketball player and estranged husband of Khloe Kardashian was found unconscious and rushed to a hospital where he spent days in a coma. It was then revealed that his soon-to-be ex-wife was still the person with legal authority to make important and possibly life-altering medical decisions for him, even though the couple signed divorce papers months ago. A backlog in the family court system that has jurisdiction over their divorce is said to be to blame for the delay. If their divorce had been finalized, chances are good that the decision-making responsibilities would have fallen into the hands of another relative or friend.

A power of attorney held by a spouse, even a soon-to-be ex-spouse, can also impact the finances of an incapacitated person, depending on type of power of attorney in place. Health care powers of attorney allow the designated individuals to make medical decisions. However, more general powers of attorney allow the individuals to make a variety of decisions, including financial decisions.

Divorce is a life-changing event and one that warrants taking a second look at an estate plan. Some may want to wait until their divorces are final, and they may assume, once finalized, an ex-spouse will no longer have power. However, divorce is not instantaneous, and, even though papers were signed, this case is an example of a situation in which an ex-spouse or soon-to-be ex-spouse can wield a great deal of power over health and financial decisions. Legal professionals in Michigan and beyond have weighed in on this recent situation and recommend updating an estate plan as soon as a divorce or a major life change is in the works.

Source: investmentnews.com, "Lamar Odom's medical debacle offers lessons on estate planning", Greg Iacurci, Oct. 19, 2015

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