Part of planning for the future includes estimating exactly how long you will live, and when you look at the age demographic statistics it becomes clear that you may want to prepare for the long haul. People 85 years old and up are the fastest-growing group the United States. This longevity is fantastic as long as you stay relatively healthy, but it is important to plan for all the eventualities that go along with reaching an advanced age.
One of these is possible incapacitation. We have all heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but many people are not aware of just how ubiquitous it is. One out of every 8 people who reach the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and 40% of those who are 85 years of age and over are Alzheimer’s sufferers. Alzheimer’s causes dementia, and this can make it impossible for victims to make sound personal, medical and financial decisions. And of course, Alzheimer’s is not the only cause of incapacity among our senior citizens.
If you were to become unable to make your own decisions, without taking any steps to address this possibility in advance, the court could be asked to appoint a guardian or conservator of its choosing to act in your behalf; you would in turn become a ward of the state. Most people would prefer to choose their own representatives, and this can be done through the execution of durable powers of attorney and lifetime trusts.
The fact that these documents are “durable” means that they remain in effect after the incapacitation of the grantor. For many, if not most, a well drafted, comprehensive durable power of attorney and a lifetime trust, both are needed to ensure there will be no court invovlement required at incapacity. In addition, a Health Care Proxy is a separate document required to designate who will make health care decisions for you if you are incapacitated.