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Importance of estate planning highlighted in veteran's dilemma

Some people are questioning what happened after a distinguished World War II veteran was removed from his home and placed in a nursing home by a court-appointed conservator. According to reports, the 96-year-old man was unnecessarily forced to move out of his home which has since drained his life-savings in nursing home expenses.

Friends and supporters are hoping to have the man, who has always lived by himself, back at home soon. In the meantime, though, many are questioning the legal process that resulted in his unwilling removal from his home. Through the use of conservatorships or guardianships, courts can and do appoint individuals to care for a person or his or her assets while they are still alive. Unless addressed during one's estate planning, these issues could be left up to a judge who does not have an intimate understanding of the individual.

When individuals lose the mental or physical ability to properly care for themselves, courts may appoint someone to handle their affairs. Ideally, this would be a loved one who understands the wishes of the individual. If loved ones are too far away or otherwise unable to care for that person, however, the court may appoint someone not familiar with the individual or the individual's needs.

In this case, the court-appointed conservator apparently did not understand the man's wishes, allegedly spent his life savings on a nursing home when a veterans' home was available and rented out the man's home without his consent. All of these things could theoretically happen, though, when decision making is taken from an individual.

To prevent this scenario, local Fort Myers residents are urged to do an audit of their estate plans. From a health proxy to a special needs trust, attorneys can outfit people with the proper legal protection to avoid this kind of situation unfolding.

Source: CTPost.com, "WWII veteran's plight brings calls for probate court reform," Rob Ryser, Oct. 25, 2014

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