It is useful to take a 360° approach when you are considering your legacy. There are numerous different things to take into account beyond the distribution of your assets to loved ones upon your passing. When you are engaged in planning for the future and of sound mind you would do well to consider all the possible eventualities of aging and keep your head up out of the sand.
Along these lines it is useful to point out just how possible it is that each one of us may become incapacitated at some point in time. People are living longer than ever, and the United States Census Bureau tells us that the “oldest old,” which is a term utilized to describe people 85 years and older, is the fastest growing group among us. Of course when you experience this type of longevity incapacity becomes more likely.
Some people become incapacitated physically, but mental incapacity may be an even bigger threat. Alzheimer’s disease strikes some 40% of the oldest old, and its sufferers often experience dementia which makes it impossible for them to make sound financial and medical decisions.
So who is going to make your decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself? That’s up to you. If you do nothing, the court may be petitioned to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf and you may then become a ward of the state.
You have another option however, which would be to take the bull by the horns and execute the appropriate incapacity planning documents. With a durable medical power of attorney you could appoint someone to make your health care decisions for you, and with a durable financial power of attorney you can select someone to handle your financial affairs should you become incapable of doing so.
If you are currently unprepared, you may want to seize the day and contact an elder law attorney right now to execute these very important documents.
Author, President and Founding Attorney
Parman & Easterday