Comprehensive, holistic estate planning takes every possibility into account and this includes addressing the realities of aging in addition to the distribution of assets after death. The fact is that senior citizens are the most rapidly growing segment of American society, and people are indeed living longer than ever before. It is not the most pleasant thought in the world, but the fact is that many of us go through a period of incapacity before we pass away, and it is important to address this fact of life when you are planning your estate.
This incapacity can be physical of course, but it can also be mental and it is not uncommon for some seniors to lose the ability to make sound personal and financial decisions. Should this become the case, the court can be petitioned to appoint a guardian and conservator. The guardian would be charged with the responsibility of making personal decisions for the incapacitated individual, who is known as the ward. These would include medical decisions along with things like where they live and what type of social and recreational activities that may engage in.
The conservator is also appointed by the court, and this would be an individual or entity who manages the property and other financial assets of the incapacitated person. The conservator can invest funds and distribute assets used for the care and support of the protected person. The individual who is to be protected or any other interested party can petition the court to appoint a conservator.
If you don’t feel comfortable with having the court step in and make decisions about who will handle your affairs you can make plans to avoid the appointment of a guardian and conservator. If you include a durable medical power of attorney and a financial power of attorney in your estate plan, the people that you choose will make decisions in your behalf in the event of your incapacitation instead of a person or entity appointed by the court.