When you think about estate planning, monetary asset transfers will probably come to mind first. This is understandable, and it is important to make sure that your loved ones receive their inheritances in an effective manner.
However, this is not the only consideration. A properly constructed estate plan will address some unpleasant eventualities that may present themselves toward the end of your life.
Aging, Alzheimer’s, and Cognitive Impairment
If you were born 1960 or a year after that, as the laws stand today, you will become eligible for Social Security when you celebrate your 67th birthday. At that point, your life expectancy will be 87 years if you are a woman, and it is 85 years for a man.
This is an eye-opening reality, because life as an octogenarian can be challenging. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that 32 percent of people that are 85 years of age and older have contracted the disease, and it is not the only cause of cognitive impairment.
In addition to diminished mental faculties, some elders become unable to handle their own affairs because of serious physical medical conditions.
The state could be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act as your representative if people close to you recognize the fact that you can no longer manage your own affairs. This is a safety net of sorts, but there are some potential negatives that go along with a guardianship proceeding.
First and foremost, the individual that is empowered may not be the person that you would have chosen yourself when you were fully capable. In some cases, members of the family will disagree under these circumstances, and this exacerbates an already challenging situation.
Financial Decision Making
When you are planning your estate, you can proactively implement an incapacity plan to prevent a guardianship.
If you speak with an attorney from our firm about your estate planning goals, you will learn about the benefits of the revocable living trust. One of the advantages is the ability to prepare for possible incapacity.
You would act as the trustee of your living trust while you are alive and well, and you would name a successor to assume the role after your passing. This individual or another person of your choosing could be named as a disability trustee when you draw up the trust agreement.
The disability trustee would step into the role if you become unable to manage your financial affairs at some point in time.
To account for property that is not held by a trust, you can name a representative in a durable power of attorney for property. The “durable” designation is relevant, because this type of power of attorney will remain in effect if you become incapacitated.
Advance Directives for Health Care
Medical decision-making should also be addressed when you are developing your incapacity plan. You can state your preferences regarding the use of life-sustaining measures in a living will, you can add your organ and tissue donation and comfort care medication choices.
There are situations that can arise that are not related to the use of life-support. You can add a durable power of attorney for health care to name an agent to act as your representative if it becomes necessary.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) was enacted in 1996 to protect patient privacy. To give your agent the ability to access your medical records, you should include a HIPAA release form.
If you are in a terminal condition and there is no hope of recovery, hospice care can be provided to make you comfortable during your final days. Some people receive the care in their homes, and hospice care can also be given in a nursing home setting. Medicare will pay for hospice care.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We are here to help if you are ready to work with an Essex Junction, Vermont estate planning lawyer to develop a plan for aging the culminates in the passing of your legacy. You can send us a message to schedule a consultation, and we can be reached by phone at 802-879-7133.
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