A lot of people think that estate planning is strictly about the events that will take place after you are gone. This is certainly at the core of the matter. You should, however, consider some other facets if you want to be fully prepared for the future.
Incapacity Among Elders
Sometimes you have to confront some uncomfortable facts of life. As elder law attorneys, we are forced to meet them head-on. Most people do not pass away after being in perfectly good health for the days and weeks preceding the event.
Over 30 percent of people 85 years of age and older contract Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, that is not the only cause of cognitive impairment. There are also individuals that can no longer make decisions on their own because of other serious medical conditions.
Your life expectancy is currently 85 years if you are a man, and 87 years for woman. The medical community can do some amazing things to prolong your life. At the same time, there are certain challenges that go along with enhanced longevity.
If you do not prepare for possible incapacity, the state could appoint a guardian to act on your behalf. A guardianship hearing can be complicated and stressful for your family, and everyone may not be on the same page.
Unfortunately the person appointed may not be the individual that you would have selected when you were of sound mind. A guardianship proceeding, however, is a necessary remedy, even if it is less than ideal.
Choose Your Own Representatives
You do not have to hope for the best. You can take steps now to empower decision-makers to act on your behalf if it ever becomes necessary.
A living trust is a very effective estate planning device. It is the ideal choice for many people. You do not have to be wealthy to use this type of trust. We will document many, but not all, of the benefits here.
When you have a living trust, you act as the trustee while you are alive and well, so you do not lose control of the assets in any way. To account for possible incapacity, you can name a disability trustee to assume the role if you become unable to handle your own affairs.
You can use a durable power of attorney for property to name a representative to handle property that is not held by a trust. The “durable” part is important because this type of power of attorney will remain in effect if you become incapacitated.
Advance directives for health care should be part of your incapacity plan as well. You can set forth your life-support preferences in a living will as well as organ and tissue donation decisions and comfort care medication choices.
You can also use a durable power of attorney for health care. This will give someone the ability to make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to make them yourself. Your agent would honor your life support choices. They would also be able to make other types of decisions if necessary.
Because of a provision in the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), doctors must keep patient information confidential. This does not work very well if you have someone else representing you, so your plan should include a HIPAA release.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
Today is the day for action if you are going through life without a plan for the future with an incapacity component. You can schedule a consultation at our Oklahoma City estate planning office if you call us at 405-843-6100, or you can use our contact form to send us a message.