Kathy is very frustrated because the utility companies will not speak to her. All of the utilities are in her husband's name. The same is true with the banks. The problem is that Ira isn't at home with Kathy; Ira is in a nursing home because he has dementia. To make matters worse, Kathy is having problems with Ira's medical care providers as well. Kathy cannot believe that she is having these problems because she and Ira have been married for 63 years. It isn't supposed to be like this!
How could Kathy and Ira have avoided these problems? In California, it would have only taken three simple estate planning documents for Kathy to be able to handle all of these matters, even with everything still in Ira's name. She and Ira need to have a power of attorney for financial affairs, an advanced health care directive for medical decisions, and a HIPAA authorization to access medical records.
The financial power of attorney would allow Kathy to deal with the utility companies or banks when things were just in Ira's name. The advanced health care directive would empower Kathy to make all medical decisions for Ira. Finally, the HIPAA authorization would allow Kathy access to medical records that are protected under privacy laws.
All three of these documents are easily created or purchased. Don't wait until it is too late, and expect doctors and utility companies to take directions from you just because you are the spouse. Make sure you have an estate plan in place now.