Your estate plan should be comprehensive in nature. Yes, you have to make sure that you facilitate asset transfers, but you should also address end-of-life eventualities.
Incapacity Is Common
Your life expectancy is into your mid-to-late 80s if you live long enough to collect your full Social Security benefit. Life as an octogenarian can be challenging in many ways, and cognitive impairment is a major threat to the oldest old.
Alzheimer’s disease strikes over 30 percent of elders according to the Alzheimer’s Association, and there are other causes of dementia. In addition to this type of incapacity, some people with physical ailments become unable to manage their own affairs.
With regard to physical incapacity, this can happen to people of any age that have been injured in accidents, and devastating illnesses can strike younger people.
If you do not take any steps in advance to assert your wishes, the state could appoint a guardian to act on your behalf in the event of your incapacity. This is a safety net of sorts, but there are some negatives that go along with a guardianship proceeding.
One of them is the simple fact that you would not be able to choose your own representative.
Secondly, members of your family may not be in total agreement about the optimal way to proceed. This can cause hard feelings during a time when people close to you should be coming together to support one another.
Advance Directives for Health Care
You can prevent a guardianship if you embed an incapacity component within your broader estate plan, and it starts with advance directives for health care. A living will is the document that you can use to state your choices with regard to the use of life-sustaining measures.
When you are creating the document, you can itemize each different type of life-support and make separate individual preferences. Your comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices can be included as well.
Scenarios can develop that are not related to the use of life-support when you are unable to communicate your decisions. To account for this possibility, you can name someone to act on your behalf in a durable power of attorney for health care.
Doctors are not allowed to share medical information with anyone other than the patient due to a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) provision. Your plan should include a HIPAA release to give your representative access to your medical records.
Financial Decision Making
A revocable living trust can be the ideal asset transfer vehicle for a wide range of people. If you establish a living trust, you would act as the trustee while you are alive and well. When you draw up the trust, you can name a disability trustee to assume the role in the event of your incapacity.
To account for property that has not been conveyed into a trust, you can add a durable power of attorney for property. The “durable” designation is important, because this type of power of attorney would remain in effect if you become incapacitated at some point.
Take Action Today!
Your incapacity plan will never be actualized if all goes well, but you should implement the appropriate preventive measures to protect your interests. When you have these documents in place, you can go forward with the knowledge that your wishes will be honored.
We can help you develop a holistic estate plan that covers all the important elements. If you are ready to get started, you can give us a call at (901) 763-2500 or (866) 997-6325 or fax us at (901) 763-2525 to schedule an appointment with one of our Memphis, Tennessee estate planning lawyers.
Don’t hesitate to get in touch if you reside in Mississippi or Arkansas, because we have attorneys that are licensed in these neighboring states.
You can alternately use our contact form to send us a message, and if you reach out electronically, you will receive a prompt response.