Your estate plan should ideally be part of a comprehensive, long-term plan for aging. You certainly want to make sure that you facilitate effective asset transfers to your loved ones, but this is only part of the process. Incapacity planning is also important.
People are living longer and longer lives. According to the United States Census Bureau, between 2000 and 2010 the segment of the population that was between 85 and 94 years of age grew faster than any other ten-year grouping.
When you reach an advanced age, the possibility of incapacity becomes quite real. Alzheimer’s disease is just one cause of incapacity, and it strikes approximately 45 percent of those who are at least 85 years of age.
The facts paint a clear picture. Lifespans are expanding, and incapacity is relatively common among the oldest old.
Who would make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated due to Alzheimer’s induced dementia or for some other reason? This is a question that you can answer for yourself.
If you do not take any steps in advance to prepare for possible incapacity, interested parties could approach the state. A guardianship hearing could be convened, and the state could ultimately appoint a guardian to manage your affairs.
This can be a disconcerting prospect. You would have no control over the choice of a representative, and your family members could potentially disagree with regard to the appropriate course of action.
Durable Powers of Attorney
You can prepare for possible incapacity by executing legally binding documents called durable powers of attorney. We are using the plural here because there are different types of decisions that could present themselves.
With a durable financial power of attorney, you could name a financial representative. A durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy is used to name a medical decision-maker.
When you create a power of attorney, you decide when the document is going to become effective. If you are executing a durable power of attorney for incapacity planning purposes, you have no way of knowing if or when you will become incapacitated.
Under these circumstances, it is difficult to project some particular date in the future, so you may want to have your durable powers of attorney become effective immediately.
The creation of a springing durable power of attorney would be another option. This power would not go into effect unless you were to become incapacitated at some point in time.
Schedule an Incapacity Planning Consultation
If you want to be comprehensively prepared for the future, you should include an incapacity plan within your broader estate plan.