When you are planning ahead for the future, you should prepare yourself for each stage of life. There are the active retirement years, and there are the twilight years that will inevitably follow.
It may not be the most pleasant thing to consider, but you may become unable to handle all of your own day-to-day needs when you reach an advanced age.
Incapacity is not uncommon among elders. The term “oldest old” is used to describe those who are at least 85 years of age. Around 40 percent of the oldest old are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. If you could no longer make your own decisions due to Alzheimer’s induced dementia or some other cause, a conservatorship proceeding could be convened.
When an adult can no longer handle his or her own affairs, a conservator can be appointed by the court to act as a representative. In some states an adult guardian would assume this role, but in California the representative is called a conservator.
The major advantage of a conservatorship is self-evident. If you cannot make sound decisions on your own, there is a mechanism in place to appoint someone to act on your behalf. Once a conservator has been appointed by the court, a decision maker will be legally empowered to manage your affairs.
There are also some disadvantages that can potentially come along with a conservatorship. For one, the conservator that is appointed by the court could be someone that you would have never chosen on your own when you were capable of making sound decisions.
Secondly, there can be disagreements among your family members with regard to the appropriate course of action.
Lastly, important decisions can be left hanging in limbo while the court is making a determination.
Durable Powers of Attorney
You don’t have to cross your fingers and hope for the best with regard to a conservatorship proceeding. Legally binding documents called durable powers of attorney can be used to name decision makers who would be empowered to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation.
When you have durable powers of attorney in place, there is no need for a conservatorship. Individuals that you have chosen will be able to act on your behalf in a legally binding fashion.
We are using the plural because you may want to choose different agents to act on your behalf for different purposes. You could execute a durable power of attorney for health care naming a representative to make medical decisions on your behalf.
You could also create a durable financial power of attorney. The agent or attorney-in-fact that you choose would be empowered to manage your financial affairs in the event of your incapacitation.
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