It is important to consider the eventualities of aging when you are planning your estate. A comprehensive estate plan will address the period of time that will precede your passing.
While it may not be the most pleasant thing in the world contemplate, a very significant percentage of senior citizens ultimately become incapacitated. Some people become physically incapacitated and unable to communicate. Others suffer from cognitive impairment.
Alzheimer’s disease is an enormous threat once you reach an advanced age. The Alzheimer’s Association is a good source of information about the disease. According to their website, one out of every eight seniors citizens is an Alzheimer’s sufferer.
This may sound like a relatively small percentage, but it swells to 45 percent among those who are at least 85 years of age. Once you reach the age of 65, it becomes statistically likely that you will live into your 80s.
Who would handle your affairs if you were to become incapacitated? The answer is that it is up to you. If you do nothing to prepare for this contingency, the state of California could appoint a conservator to act on your behalf.
There are some major drawbacks that go along with a conservatorship. One of them is the loss of control.
Right now when you are of sound mind, you probably know who you would want to see handling your affairs in the event of your incapacitation. If a conservatorship proceeding is convened, the conservator that is empowered by the court may not be the person that you would have chosen yourself.
Another drawback is the potential for disagreements among family members during the conservatorship proceeding.
Further, the costs associated with conservatorships are considerable and are paid by the incapacitated person’s assets leaving less to provide for their care.
Preventing a Conservatorship
You can prevent a conservatorship by executing the appropriate incapacity planning documents. There is a type of power of attorney called a durable power of attorney that would remain in effect even if you become incapacitated.
While there are free or inexpensive boiler plate powers of attorney available on the internet and other places, they run a considerable risk of being ineffective or incomplete.
When you create a comprehensive and effective durable financial power of attorney, you name an agent or attorney-in-fact. Your agent would be empowered to act on your behalf should you become incapacitated at some point in time. There would be no need for a conservatorship, because your own choice would be legally binding.
For many persons, a comprehensive revocable living trust plan is a better solution to avoid both conservatorships and probates.
To account for medical decision-making, you could execute an advance health care directive.
Incapacity Planning Consultation
Incapacity planning is important if you want to control your own destiny. When you take the right steps, your own hand-picked decision-makers can be standing at the ready to act on your behalf if it becomes necessary.
If you are currently unprepared, our firm can help. Call our office to schedule your consultation.