You may think about estate planning as the act of creating a document that will direct the transfer of your assets after you are gone. This is definitely a significant part of the equation, but a well-constructed plan will go a step further. It will also address eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life.
Incapacity Is Common
Until you have had an experience, it is nearly impossible to truly imagine what it would feel like, and this is understandable. This being stated, when you look at the facts, you see that there are some eventualities that many elders face. It is wise to meet them head on so that you can make the appropriate preparations.
With the above in mind, you should know that a very significant percentage of seniors that reach an advanced age become unable to make sound decisions. Alzheimer’s disease is one cause of incapacity, but there are others, so this is a very serious matter.
If you do nothing to address this concern, and you do become incapable of managing your own affairs late in your life, interested parties would petition the state. The probate court would get involved, and evidence of your incapacity would be presented.
Assuming the state agreed with the contention that you were unable to effectively handle your own decision-making, a guardian would be appointed to act on your behalf. At that point, you would become a ward of the state.
When these circumstances come about, there has to be some recourse, so the guardianship process is necessary. This being stated, it is not an ideal scenario. The proceedings can take time, and this is one drawback.
Plus, the person that is ultimately chosen to act as the guardian may not be the individual that you would have selected when you were of sound mind. Another potential negative is the possibility of disagreements among your loved ones regarding the person that should act as the guardian.
There is a solution that you can embrace if you are not too enamored with the concept of guardianship. You can proactively take the matter into your own hands when you are planning your estate and include an incapacity planning component.
If you use a living trust as the centerpiece of your estate plan, you can take advantage of certain benefits. One of them is the ability to brace yourself for possible incapacity. In the trust declaration, you could name a disability trustee to administer device if you ever become unable to do so on your own.
There are legal devices called durable powers of attorney that can be used to name decision-makers to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. With a durable power of attorney for property, you can choose someone to make financial decisions on your behalf (decisions that are not related to assets in a trust).
You can include an advance directive as well to name a medical representative. Within the health care realm, there is one other document that should be added to provide total peace of mind.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents medical professionals from sharing records with anyone other than the patient. To make sure that your health care agent has access to the relevant information, you should include a HIPAA release form.
We Are Here to Help!
Our doors are wide open if you would like to have a meaningful conversation with a licensed estate planning attorney. You can request a consultation appointment right now if you call us at 802-879-7133, and there is also a contact form on this website that you can use if you would like to send us a message.