Estate planning should go beyond the matter of asset transfers. End-of-life planning is part of the equation, and you should pragmatically accept the eventualities that many people face during the twilight years.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Cognitive Impairment
The Alzheimer’s Association does fantastic work educating the public about this terrible disease, and they also offer resources for families that have been touched by it. According to their site, 32 percent of people that are 85 years of age and older have contracted the Alzheimer’s.
This disease causes dementia, which can rob victims of their ability to make sound decisions on their own. Though it is a major culprit, there are other underlying cause of cognitive impairment, and most seniors in nursing homes pass away with some type of dementia.
This alone is enough to get your attention with regard to the need for incapacity planning, and some people become unable to communicate decisions because of physical health ailments.
Adult Guardianship and/or Conservatorship
If you do nothing to prepare for incapacity in advance, the state can be petitioned to appoint someone to act on your behalf, and you would become a ward. In some states, a conservator will represent a ward for financial decision-making, and a guardian will be empowered to make personal choices.
Most people would rather name their own potential decision-makers. Fortunately, this is possible if you plan your estate properly.
Disability Trustee and Durable Power of Attorney for Property
A living trust is a highly effective, versatile device that can be the ideal estate planning centerpiece. When you have this type of trust, you would act as the trustee while you are living, so you would maintain control of the assets every step of the way.
This is a revocable trust, and the name is self-explanatory. You would retain the power of revocation, so you could rescind the trust at any time, and you would reassume direct personal possession of the property that you conveyed into it.
We are not going to go into all the benefits here, but you can account for possible incapacity. When you establish the trust, you can name a disability trustee that would assume the role if it becomes necessary.
You can designate the same individual or entity that will administer the trust after your passing, or you could name someone else if you choose to do so.
To account for property that is not held by a trust, you can add a durable power of attorney for property to name an agent to act as your representative.
Advance Directives for Health Care
To round out your incapacity plan, you should execute documents called advance directives for health care. A living will can be used to state your preferences regarding the use of life-support measures like feeding tubes, artificial hydration, resuscitation, and mechanical respiration.
You can itemize each technique if you have different preferences, and your living will can include your comfort care medication and organ and tissue donation choices.
Medical scenarios can arise that are not related to the use of life-support methods that you addressed in the living will. You can add a durable power of attorney for health care to name someone to make decisions on your behalf that are not already expressed in your living will.
A HIPAA release should be added to give your health care representative the legal right to discuss your condition with your doctors.
Take Action Today!
If you are going through life without an estate plan with an incapacity component, today is the day for action. You can schedule a consultation at our Memphis, TN estate planning office if you call us at 866-997-6325 or 901-763-2500, and you can alternately use our contact form to send us a message.