The process of estate planning should be viewed in a holistic manner. Yes, you want to make sure that your loved ones receive their inheritances when the time comes, but you should also consider end-of-life eventualities.
It can be difficult to imagine a time when you will be unable to handle all of your own affairs. This being stated, when you see someone that is in their 80s, you would not be surprised to find out that they were experiencing some level of cognitive impairment.
If you were born in 1960 or any later year, you will become eligible for your full Social Security benefit when you are 67. Most people expect to live long enough to collect Social Security, and if you do, your life expectancy is at least 85 years depending on your gender.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 32 percent of individuals that are 85 years of age and older have contracted the disease. It is not the only cause of dementia, and some people become unable to communicate sound decisions because of serious physical ailments.
The probate court could be petitioned to appoint a conservator to manage your affairs if interested parties feel as though you can no longer make sound decisions. This is a necessary safeguard, but there is a loss of privacy when the court is involved.
Members of your family may have different ideas with regard to the right way to proceed. This can cause hard feelings during a time when family members should be supporting one another.
At the end of the process, the person that is chosen to be your conservator may not be the individual that you would have selected, and this is another negative.
Financial Decision Making
You can seize control in advance if you execute the appropriate incapacity planning documents.
When you work with an attorney from our firm to develop your plan, you will hear about the benefits of the revocable living trust. We are not going to get into all of them here, but one of them is the ability to prepare for possible incapacitation.
You name a successor trustee in the trust declaration to act as the administrator after you pass away. The successor or someone else could be designated as a disability trustee that would manage the trust in the event of your incapacity.
If you do not have a trust, you can use a durable power of attorney for property to name someone to manage your financial affairs. The “durable” designation is very relevant, because a durable power of attorney will remain in effect if you become incapacitated.
Even if you have a living trust with a disability trustee, you should execute a durable power of attorney to account for property that was never conveyed into the trust.
Advance Directives for Health Care
In addition to the financial side of the equation, you should address medical decision-making when you are developing your incapacity plan. A living will is a document that you can use to express your life support preferences, and you can include organ and tissue donation choices.
You can state your comfort care medication preferences as well, and you can address each different type of life-support measure individually if you choose to do so.
This will cover the life-support question, but medical scenarios can arise that are not related to life-support utilization. To account for this possibility, you can name an agent to act on your behalf in a durable power of attorney for health care or health care proxy.
A provision that is contained within the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) makes it illegal for doctors to release medical information to anyone other than the patient.
Your plan should include a HIPAA release to give your health care decision-maker the ability to access all of your medical records and speak freely with your doctors.
When recovery is not possible, hospice care can be required. Medical professionals and psychological and spiritual advisors can help make the final days more comfortable in your home or a nursing home. Medicare will cover hospice care, so the cost will not be a factor.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
We are here to help if you are ready to work with a Hartford, Connecticut estate planning lawyer to develop a plan for aging. You can send us a message to request a consultation appointment, and we can be reached by phone at 860-548-1000.