Case Review: Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge – Distinguishing Health Care Power of Attorney and Personal Care Power of Attorney

Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge is a great example of how a health care power of attorney serves a specific purpose whereas a personal care power of attorney serves a general purpose. The two powers of attorney can conflict at times and one will take precedence over the other.

In this case, decedent Ms. Lovenstein executed a heath care power of attorney in 2006 which became effective immediately. Ms. Lovenstein appointed her niece Ms. Hutcheson as her attorney-in-fact for health care decisions. Four years later, in 2010, Ms. Lovenstein executed a personal care power of attorney. Ms. Lovenstein appointed both her sister Ms. Charles and Ms. Hutcheson as attorneys-in-fact for personal decisions. However, the personal care power of attorney specifically excluded power for health care decisions.

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The effect of the two distinct powers of attorney meant that Ms. Hutcheson had powers for both medical and personal matters, but Ms. Charles only had powers for personal matters. Can you guess what happened next?

Ms. Charles signed an agreement for Ms. Lovenstein to be admitted to Eskaton FountainWood Lodge, a licensed residential care facility for the elderly. At the time of admission, Ms. Lovenstein was suffering from dementia and seizures, and she was confused and disoriented.

So herein lies the problem – did Ms. Charles’s powers give her the authority to sign an agreement admitting Ms. Lovenstein to Eskaton FountainWood Lodge? The issues is whether Ms. Charles’s decision is a personal care or a medical decision.

To understand the interplay between the two powers of attorney, look to the statutes authorizing the powers. The Power of Attorney Law is found in Probate Code § 4000 et seq., and the Health Care Decisions Law is found in Probate Code § 4600 et seq. The Power of Attorney Law applies to decisions regarding personal care but does not extend to health care decisions, those are left to the Health Care Decisions Law.

The Court went to great length to distinguish the type of care provided by the Eskaton FountainWood Lodge and made its decision based on the level of care provided by Eskaton FountainWood Lodge. For example, the Court noted that the type of service to be provided by Eskaton FountainWood Lodge was greater than just boarding care like laundry, lodging, and meal prep; rather, the care was medical in nature because Eskaton FountainWood Lodge would be providing dementia care and a higher level of care by trained staff.

The Court did note that although residential care facilities are not primarily medical, and in some cases may provide only assistant for personal activities of daily life. The Court discusses many theories of statutory interpretation and decides that in some instances admitting a loved on to a residential care facility can be a personal decision and sometimes it can be a medical decision. In the case of Ms. Lovenstein, the admission was a medical decision because of the amount and type of care needed.

This decision comes from the Third District of the California Court of Appeals, case number C074846.

Hutcheson v. Eskaton Fountainwood Lodge is an excellent example of why you need both a health care power of attorney and a personal care power of attorney, and why the two should be drafted and executed with the help of a qualified attorney.

-BDR

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Brian Russ is an estate planning attorney in West Sacramento, Yolo County, California. Call today to schedule an estate planning consult: (916) 750-5155.

Original post date: February 3, 2018

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