As elder law attorneys, we are very significantly impacted by an emerging demographic phenomenon. During the years after World War II, there were an inordinate number of babies born in the United States. These are the baby boomers, and over recent years, they have started to reach their senior years. Because of this, there is a rapidly aging of the population underway.
Across the country, seniors comprise about 14 percent of the population. Here in the Burlington area, it is 16.4 percent according to the United States Census Bureau.
There are many different eventualities that people should plan ahead for in advance when they reach their mid-60s and beyond. We regularly examine elder law issues here on this blog, and we probe into these matters on other parts of our website.
One of them is the matter of long-term care and the costs that go along with it, but we will address another inconvenient reality here.
Latter Life Incapacity
When you are thinking about retirement planning, the good times that you have always looked forward to will probably come to mind first. There is no question about the fact that your golden years can be some of the best years of your life if you have your health you plan ahead effectively from a financial perspective. This being stated, it is important to address the twilight years that will inevitably follow.
It can be difficult-to-impossible to envision what life will be like when you are in your mid-80s, and many people live into the next decade. You may be surprised to hear that the life expectancy for a 70-year-old man is over 85 years, and for a woman, it is 87.5 years. Even if you have always been healthy and fully capable of handling your own affairs throughout your life, things can change when you reach an advanced age.
There are other causes of incapacity, but Alzheimer’s disease alone is enough to make you sit up and take notice. It strikes seven out of every 10 people that are at least 85 years of age according to research that is cited on the Alzheimer’s Association website. Approximately 13% of all individuals that are 65 years of age and older have contracted the disease.
When you combine all of these statistics, you can see that incapacity is a very real possibility. There are legal steps that you can take to brace yourself in advance to minimize the negative consequences.
If you do nothing to prepare for incapacity, and it becomes apparent that you can no longer make sound decisions on your own, family members could petition the state to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf.
This is a necessary safeguard, but most people would want to choose their own representative. There can also be disagreements among people that are close to you with regard to the need for a guardian or the right person to act as your decision maker.
Another drawback is the fact that it could take some time for the formal guardianship proceeding to run its course. This is particularly true if it is contested in any way. While the process is underway, important matters could be left in limbo.
Durable Powers of Attorney
You can proactively prevent a guardianship through the inclusion of an incapacity plan within your broader estate plan. Durable powers of attorney can be used to name people to make medical and financial decisions on your behalf. The “durable” designation is significant, because a power of attorney that is not durable would no longer be in effect upon the incapacitation of the grantor.
There is another document that should be included in your incapacity plan called an advance directive. With this document, you record your wishes with regard to the utilization of artificial life sustaining measures.
Download Our Estate Planning Worksheet!
Since you are on this website, you must be looking for information about estate planning. We hope that you took something away from this blog post, and you can access another great resource right here on our website.
Our attorneys have put together a very useful worksheet that will ratchet up your estate planning knowledge, and it is being offered free of charge right now. To get your copy, visit this page: Burlington, VT Estate Planning Worksheet.
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