Lately it seems like even those whose income shouldn’t have changed due to the down economy are not spending their money. That’s why an article about how NBC anchor Brian Williams is not spending his money caught my eye. It seems that Williams, who makes $10,000,000.00 per year or about $866,000.00 per month, feels it is “not cool” and “not very sensitive” to spend money right now. Good golly man! Get up off your wallet and go stimulate the economy fool! Don’t let your misguided desire to show solidarity with the common working man, take food off that man’s table.
You don’t have to “ostentatious” to spend money. If you make enough for a Bentley Continental GT like Williams then buy yourself a Cadillac like your average Florida retiree instead. You’ll be helping the economy, but you still won’t be ostentatious for your income level. There’s a fine line between reckless spending and wise spending within your means. But it seems that people have gone from acting like they have bottomless pits of money to behaving like the well is completely dry and they live in the Sahara. It is true that people were feeling rich and spending like there is no tomorrow, but that doesn’t mean that the penduluum must swing completely the other way.
I’ve written before about the dangers of online postings. A little self censorship is a good idea. Now it seems that your Facebook status can get you out of jury duty too. All one juror had to do is set his Facebook status as: “Barry Price is sitting in hell … aka jury duty.” It seems that a paralegal for the plaintiff’s attorney in the multi-million dollar lawsuit for which Mr. Price was a potential juror was checking the Facebook pages of the jurors. He complained to the judge and it was buh-bye Barry. I’m not sure that should have been enough to get him excused for cause, but it was a high stakes, high profile case.
A juror in England, however, engaged in some egregiously improper conduct. Jurors are forbidden from discussing cases outside of court while the trial is going on. In fact, they cannot even discuss it among themselves until all the evidence is presented. They are supposed to base their verdicts solely on the evidence presented and to not consider outside factors or influences. They are not allowed to view any news about the trial if it is in the papers or on television. So what does she do? She posts details of the criminal sex abuse case online and then polls her Facebook Friends for their opinions. She was, of course, dismissed from the case when her misconduct was discovered. She was lucky not to have been held in contempt of court.
I had some clients come in recently in need of a guardianship for a family member. The family member was a retired professional. He had all the right tools in place to avoid a guardianship — durable power of attorney, health care surrogate, and revocable living trust. So why did he need a guardianship? Because he was suffering from dementia and refused to cooperate with his family in making rational decisions that were in his own best interests. Unfortunately, it seems to me that dementia often magnifies the worst personality aspects of some people. When you combine a cantankerous, domineering personality with paranoia and delusion, it makes for a difficult situation.
A durable power of attorney lets you manage the person’s property, but not the person. Sometimes I hear people say, “I’ve got power of attorney over my Aunt Ethel.” No they don’t. They have a power of attorney that allows them to deal with Aunt Ethel’s property. A revocable living trust also allows the management of property but not of a person. In the narrow area of health care and treatment decisions, a health care surrogate or medical power of attorney does give some control over the person assuming that third parties agree and cooperate. Therein lies the rub. Without an adjudication of incapacity, third parties my be reluctant to accept the authority of the attorney-in-fact or surrogate. This is especially true if the incapacitated person insists that he or she is not incapacitated. The presumption is that people are competent unless declared incompetent.
Sometimes the alleged incapacitated person has lucid moments or is able to “fake it” for significant periods of time. This makes third parties even more leery of accepting instructions solely from the attorney-in-fact or surrogate. Third parties who do not spend a lot of time with the incapacitated person are the most easily deceived. Thus, you can plan and have all the right tools and still not avoid a guardianship. The good news is that although you may not avoid a guardianship of the person, you may still avoid a guardianship of the property if you have a properly funded living trust in place.