A frightening aspect of aging is our need to rely upon others for help with day-to-day life. As we age and begin to decline into incapacity, we might struggle to make decisions, to keep up with the financial details of living, to safely manage our healthcare. Who can we turn to? How do we retain control even when we need help? How do we protect ourselves when we are increasingly vulnerable?
Planning for incapacity is perhaps more important than planning the transfer of assets after your death. Each state has guardianship and conservatorship statutes which allow a judge to appoint someone to fill these roles after it is determined that you no longer can manage those decisions for yourself. As long as the guardianship is in place, decisions are subject to oversight by the court, and the guardian is required to provide a regular status report for judicial review. This process can be a drain on the emotional and financial resources of the family, and a greater loss of privacy and independence for you.
What is the alternative to ceding your autonomy to a stranger? Proactive planning while you are healthy enough to memorialize your choices for financial management and healthcare choices. For most people it will begin by executing a general durable power of attorney for finances and a healthcare durable power of attorney. An incapacity plan should include a HIPPA release and may involve an advance directive or living will for end of life healthcare decisions. Individual circumstances may dictate additional documents as well.
Sharing and maintaining your plan is the final crucial step. Outdated documents in the back of a file cabinet are of little use when needs become urgent. Make sure you know the steps utilize your plan to its best effect. Make sure you work with an estate planning attorney to execute an incapacity plan specific for your needs.
This information is not, nor is it intended to be legal advice. You should consult an attorney for individual advice regarding your own situation. The material on this website does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Schroeder Larsen Law, PA.