A lot of these folks procrastinate because they think they will have plenty of time to act later on. After all, these are matters that only apply to senior citizens, right? People that think this way have very short memories, and they must not stay abreast of current events.
COVID Wake-Up Call
The novel coronavirus changed everything when it reared its ugly head in the United States on a widespread basis in 2020. All of a sudden, we were watching people in dire medical conditions that they never anticipated.
Older folks were, and still are, most vulnerable. However, this disease has taken the lives of hundreds of thousands of Americans under the age of 65. In addition to the fatalities, some patients that ultimately recovered were unable to communicate decisions for a period of time.
This experience has proven that you should take nothing for granted. In fact, at the time of this writing on a single day in late May 2022, over 147,000 cases have been reported in the United States. The worst part may be over, but COVID is still a threat.
Alzheimer’s, Incapacity, and Adult Guardianship
Incapacity planning was important before the pandemic, and people of all ages become incapacitated due to injuries and illnesses. This being said, elders are certainly more vulnerable than their younger counterparts.
Alzheimer’s disease alone is enough to make incapacity planning a must. Over 6 million people are living with Alzheimer’s right now, and this figure is expected to grow to more than 13 million by 2050. About one third of all elders will pass away with dementia.
People with cognitive impairment will typically become unable to make sound decisions at some point in time. If you do nothing to prepare for this possibility, the state could appoint a guardian to make decisions for you in the event of your incapacity.
Under these circumstances, family members may disagree about the right course of action, and your own true wishes may not be carried out. Plus, the government gets involved in very personal affairs when a guardianship hearing is convened.
Proactive Incapacity Planning
You can take the matter into your own hands in advance if you put an incapacity plan in place. This will involve the execution of documents called advance health care directives.
One of these directives is a durable power of attorney, which is used to designate a decision-making representative. The “durable” designation is important, because this type of power of attorney will remain in effect if you become incapacitated.
Another advance directive that should be part of the plan is a living will. You state your life-support utilization preferences in this type of will, and your health care representative would not be able to overrule your choices.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prevents doctors from sharing healthcare information with anyone other than the patient. In light of this restriction, you should include a HIPAA release to give your representatives access to your medical records.
Your incapacity plan should also address financial management. A durable power of attorney for property can be added to empower someone to manage your affairs if necessary. If you have a living trust, you can name a disability trustee to administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.
Schedule a Consultation Today!
As you can see, there are a lot of things to think about if you want to plan your estate effectively. Legal counsel is invaluable, and this is why should work with an attorney when you are devising your plan.
If you are ready to get started, you can schedule a consultation at our Cincinnati estate planning office if you call us at 513-721-1513. You can alternately send us a message through our contact page, and we will get back to you ASAP if you reach out electronically.