Estate planning is just one of the aspects of the broader specialty of elder law. So when you are planning your estate it would be a good idea to think about the period of your life that precedes the actual distribution of your assets after your death. This is very important because when you look at the reality of the times within which we are living, the fact is that people are living longer than they ever have before.
Recent census statistics tell us that those who are at least 85 years of age are the fastest-growing segment of the United States population. People who have reached this advanced stage of their lives are almost as likely to suffer from dementia as not. Over 30% of seniors who are 85 or older suffer from some form of dementia.(A Canadian study places the number at 35%–others suggest it could be as high as 50%.)
This is a fact of life that could be accurately described as unpleasant, but it is a fact all the same. Planning for the future is all about making the appropriate preparations for all of the eventualities of aging. For this reason elder law attorneys often suggest that their clients engage in incapacity planning in conjunction with their estate planning efforts.
There are essentially two bases that need to be covered when you are creating an incapacity plan. For one thing it is advisable to address medical contingencies, and this can be done via the execution of advance health care directives. The two advance directives that are generally recommended are the living will and durable medical power of attorney or health care proxy.
You would also want to have a representative in place who is empowered to handle your financial affairs should you become unable to do so for yourself due to incapacitation. This can be done via the execution of a durable financial power of attorney.
Taking the time to have these relatively simple documents drawn up as part of your overall plan is well worth the effort when you consider the consequences of failing to do so, both in terms of your own comfort and dignity and the emotional well-being of your loved ones.