Estate planning is usually thought of as being within the realm of financial planning. This is true on one level, but it also connects to elder law. You want to know all the facts and make preparations for the eventualities of aging.
As a result, a comprehensive estate plan would include an incapacity planning component.
As we all know, people can pass away under varying different circumstances. However, in most cases there will be a period of decline. The average life span is around 78 years, and this increases as you get older. Statistically speaking, it is likely that you will live into your 80s if you are fortunate enough to reach the age of 65.
A significant percentage of people who reach an advanced age do in fact become incapacitated to one degree or another. If you cannot make your own decisions, who would make them on your behalf? The answer is something that you control. It depends on planning, or a lack thereof.
If you do not do anything at all to prepare for the possibility of incapacity, a guardianship hearing could be initiated if you need a representative to manage your affairs. You would have no control over the choice of guardian. The state would make this decision.
This may not sound like a very appealing proposition, but there are other pitfalls that can go along with guardianship proceedings. The family will have input, and everyone may not agree on the best choice of guardian. Another thing to consider is the time lag. Immediate day-to-day decisions may be necessary, but the matter could be held up in court for an extended period of time.
You can account for the possibility of future incapacity by executing documents called advance health care directives. One of these is a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care.
With this document you empower someone to make medical decisions in your behalf should you become unable to make them on your own. You should discuss your general point of view with your chosen representative so that he or she would be acting with the benefit of this knowledge.
When you have executed a durable power of attorney for health care you can go forward with peace of mind knowing that your own hand-picked decision-maker is in place. You also remove the possibility of disagreements among your loved ones. They will all know that the person who will be making the decisions is the individual that you have personally selected.
Durable powers of attorney for health care are just one of the incapacity documents that should be executed. There are others. To put a comprehensive incapacity plan in place, contact our firm to set up a free consultation.