As estate planning and elder law attorneys, we are charged with the responsibility of sharing some inconvenient truths as it were. Some of the eventualities of aging are not particularly pleasant to contemplate, but at the same time, they can be more effectively managed if you address them in advance. With this in mind, we will look at the importance of incapacity planning in this blog post.
Everyone wants to live long and live well, and this is as it should be, and lifespans are getting longer. There is a tool on the Social Security Administration website that you can use to find out your life expectancy based on your age at any given time. According to the tool, if you are a man that is turning 67 today, statistically speaking, you should live until you are at least 85. For a woman, the number is 87 years.
It is very difficult to imagine what life will be like as an octogenarian. Clearly, there are some looming health care threats that seniors face, and Alzheimer’s disease is at the top of the list.
The Alzheimer’s Association provides resources for individuals and families that are touched by Alzheimer’s disease, and they share a lot of good information on their website. Unfortunately, the widespread nature of Alzheimer’s disease is unpleasantly surprising to many people. It strikes about 40% of individuals that are 85 years of age and older.
This is just one of many different potential causes of latter life incapacity. When you digest the statistics, you can see that it is very possible that you may be unable to make sound decisions at some point in time.
What would happen if you were to become unable to handle your own affairs due to Alzheimer’s disease or some other medical condition? The answer is that it is entirely up to you. If you do nothing to prepare for this possibility, the state could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf. This is a necessary remedy, but there are potential negatives that go along with a guardianship proceeding.
Under these circumstances, all members of your family may not be on the same page with regard to the right choice of a guardian. This can cause acrimony during a time when people should support one another as they work together as a family. Secondly, the person that is ultimately chosen to act as your representative may not be someone that you would have selected yourself.
To prevent a guardianship, you can be proactive about the implementation of an incapacity planning component when you are devising your overall estate plan. Advance directives for health care will be part of this equation. One of these documents is a living will, with which you state your preferences regarding the utilization of artificial life sustaining measures.
You would also add a health care proxy that is utilized to name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf is it ever becomes necessary. These would be matters that are not specifically covered in the living will. In order for your health care agent to be able to access your medical records, you must add a HIPAA release form.
Another legal device that should be included is a revocable trust. You would name an individual to manage your financial affairs in the event of your incapacity in this document. A robust durable power of attorney, properly coordinated with the trust, rounds out the documents used to effectively plan for your incapacity.
Download Our Free Estate Planning Worksheet!
We have shared a bit of focused information about incapacity planning in this piece, but there is a lot more to take into consideration when you are putting your estate plan in place. It can be hard to know exactly how to structure your efforts, and this is understandable.
As a response, we have devised a very useful estate planning worksheet. If you go through it, you will gain an understanding of the steps that you must take to be thoroughly prepared. This worksheet is being offered free of charge at the present time, and you can visit the download page on this website to obtain access to your copy.