A guardianship proceeding could be convened if you were to become unable to handle your affairs as a senior citizen without taking any steps in advance to prepare for this contingency. Before you turn the page under the impression that you will never become incapacitated, you should understand some statistics.
Incapacity can be caused by various different conditions, but there is one disease that completely changes the playing field. Everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s, but many are surprised when they hear about its widespread nature. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 40 percent of people who are 85 years of age or older are suffering from this disease.
Alzheimer’s causes dementia, and people with dementia are typically going to become unable to handle their own personal and financial affairs.
Understanding Alzheimer’s is part of the equation, but you should also recognize the current state of affairs when it comes to longevity. The United States Census Bureau has stated that the segment of the population that was between 85 and 94 grew faster than any other group between 2000 and 2010.
The bottom line is this: you may well live into your eighties and perhaps beyond, and incapacity is quite common among the oldest old.
A guardianship would fill a void, so it is not entirely negative. At the same time, there are some disadvantages to take into consideration.
First and foremost, the decision-making would be out of your hands with regard to the choice of a representative. Depending on your level of competence, your voice could be considered, but in the end, the state would decide your fate.
Potential family disagreements could arise as well, and this is another disadvantage. Thirdly, the guardianship proceeding could potentially take some time, and important decisions could be left dangling during this interim.
You can overcome these disadvantages if you plan ahead in advance for possible incapacity. If you take the right steps, decision-makers of your own choosing would be empowered to act on your behalf, and there would be no need for a guardianship.
An incapacity plan will typically involve the utilization of durable powers of attorney. You are probably aware of the fact that a power of attorney is a legal device that can be used to empower someone else to act on your behalf. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect even if you become incapacitated.
The plan will typically include a durable financial power of attorney, and a durable power of attorney for health care decision making. When you are creating durable powers of attorney, you should take certain things into consideration when you are selecting your agent. Obviously, you want to use an agent that is willing and capable, and the person should be completely trustworthy.
Geography will also enter the picture. If you were to become incapacitated late in your life, the agent may be called upon to act on an ongoing basis for an extended period of time. Ideally, the agent should live close to you so that it is easy for the representative to conduct business on your behalf.
The age of the agent is another thing to take into account. You should have an incapacity plan in place as soon as you are a self-supporting adult. The agent that you name in the document may not be called upon for decades, so you should consider the anticipated lifespan of the person that you choose.
Take Direct Action!
If you recognize the value of incapacity planning after reading this post, now is the time for action. We offer free, no obligation elder law and estate planning consultations, and you can rest assured that you will feel perfectly comfortable from the first moment that you walk through our doors.
After we gain an understanding of your overall objectives and family dynamic, we will help you put a comprehensive estate plan in place that includes an incapacity preparation component.
To set up an appointment, send us a message through our contact page or give us a call at 310-337-7696.