A Missouri woman is being accused of 1st degree murder and forgery. The murder weapon: her father’s power of attorney, allegedly forged, naming herself as the agent. The actual murder: directing that her father’s life-sustaining medical treatment be discontinued. The accused, Susan Elizabeth (“Liz”) Van Note has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
This case turns even more bizarre. Prosecutors allege that Ms. Van Note is responsible for the critical gunshot wound that landed her father in the hospital in the first place. They claim that she shot her father and his fiancé in their home shortly before their upcoming marriage. (The fiancée was killed. These charges are being handled separately.)
The prosecutor explains that the actual murder charge against Ms. Van Note stems from the document forgery and from her subsequent action as her father’s health care agent – not from the shooting itself – because it is the termination of medical treatment that directly led to his death.
One unfortunate and shocking detail: Ms. Van Note is actually an estate planning attorney. Presumably your clients and prospective clients are savvy enough to understand that case is an anomaly. And presumably they will understand that you truly are committed to, as Ms. Van Note’s own website states, empowering clients “to make a difference in the lives of [their] loved ones” by providing “honest and sincere legal counsel.” Nonetheless, this case has been picked up by AP and might be appearing in your local paper, so it’s worth knowing that this news is out there.
Randi J. Siegel, MBA, is the President of DocuBank (docubank.com), the largest advance directives registry in the U.S., which ensures that the emergency information and healthcare directives of its 200,000 enrollees are immediately available 24/7/365. Working with estate planning professionals since 1997, Randi frequently speaks at national estate planning conferences and has appeared on radio and television as an authority on registries. A member of the International Society of Advance Care Planning, she is active in health policy and health education related to advance care planning and advance directives and serves as Pennsylvania liaison to the National Healthcare Decisions Day initiative. Randi is an ongoing contributor to the Academy blog.
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