Estate planning attorneys often focus on elder law matters as well, because the two are inherently intertwined. Yes, it is important to state your final wishes to make sure that your financial assets are properly transferred to your family members after you are gone. At the same time, you should address potential end-of-life issues as well.
With the above in mind, let’s look at one of these eventualities that a very significant percentage of seniors will face toward the end of their lives.
Aging and Alzheimer’s Disease
The first piece of information that you have to digest to understand this dynamic is the anticipated longevity of senior citizens.
There is a tool that is available on the Social Security Administration website that can be used to determine your life expectancy at any given age. Using this calculator, if you are celebrating your 67th birthday today and you are a woman, your life expectancy is 87 years, and it is 85 years for a man.
This means that if you live long enough to collect your full Social Security benefit, it is likely that you will live into your mid-80s and perhaps beyond. The vast majority of people will in fact make it to the Social Security eligibility age, so it is prudent to think about what life will be like as an octogenarian
The Alzheimer’s Association works tirelessly to educate people and provide resources for individuals and families that are touched by this horrible disease. They have shared research that has shown that about 40 percent of people that are 85 years of age and older are suffering from Alzheimer’s.
This is not the only cause of dementia among elders, and dementia is not the only condition that can lead to incapacity. When you combine all of these facts, you can see that it is very possible that a time will come when you are not capable of making sound decisions on your own.
If you become incapacitated late in your life, and you do nothing to prepare for it in advance, the state will provide a remedy. Interested parties could petition the court to appoint a conservator to act on your behalf.
There has to be some type of societal solution in place, so there is nothing inherently wrong with this arrangement. This being stated, there are some drawbacks. The process can be time-consuming, and family members may not always agree with regard to the right course of action.
Plus, the representative that is chosen by the court may not be the individual that you would have selected if you would have made the decision in advance when you were of sound mind.
What’s the Solution?
You can prevent a conservatorship before it happens and go forward with total peace of mind if you execute the right incapacity planning documents.
When it comes to the financial part of the equation, you can execute a durable power of attorney for property. The agent that you name would have the ability to manage your financial affairs if you ever become unable to do so for yourself.
If you have a living trust, you can empower a disability trustee to manage the trust in the event of your incapacity. You would still want a durable power of attorney for property to account for assets that are not in the trust for one reason or another.
Medical decision-making is another factor, so you can add a durable power of attorney for health care along with a living will. This type of will is used to state your preferences regarding the use of life-sustaining measures like resuscitation and artificial respiration, nutrition, and hydration.
Attend a Free Webinar Today!
Now is the time for action if you understand the need for incapacity planning as part of your overall estate plan. We invite you to attend a free webinar on living trust estate planning which covers the importance of planning for incapacity and death. To see a schedule of our upcoming webinars, click here.