Mention of the term estate planning conjures images of the preparation of financial assets for eventual transfer to your family members after you pass away. This is of course important, but these days people who are interested in estate planning are encouraged to see a larger, more comprehensive, and holistic picture. There are many different eventualities that go along with reaching an advanced age, and it is a good idea to be prepared for any and all contingencies that may come your way at some point in the future.
A lot of people don’t realize just how likely it is that they may go through a period of incapacitation during the latter portion of their lives. Of course some elders become incapacitated physically and this is one type of incapacitation to consider. But the loss of mental faculties is quite common. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that some 40% of people 85 years of age and older suffer from the disease. Alzheimer’s causes dementia, and dementia can make it difficult to impossible for its victims to make sound medical and financial decisions.
If you become unable to make decisions for yourself without having made any advance preparations the court can be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act in your behalf. You may have no control over who this guardian is, and you may well become a ward of the state.
This can be avoided by engaging in intelligent incapacity planning. Typical powers of attorney do not remain in effect after the incapacitation of the grantor, but durable powers of attorney do in fact remain valid should the grantor become incapacitated. So you could execute durable powers of attorney naming individuals of your choosing to make medical and financial decisions in your behalf.
Incapacity planning should be a part of your comprehensive plan for aging. If you have not yet taken these steps, you may want to be proactive and arrange for a consultation with an experienced elder law attorney sooner rather than later.