As elder law and estate planning attorneys, we work in an area that is absolutely relevant to every person walking the earth. In spite of this, the majority of adults do not have estate plans in place, and even fewer people have given much thought to the unpleasant eventualities of aging.
You could say that the tendency to keep your head in the sand is understandable, but it really is not when you compare it to other scenarios. For example, you carry car insurance to protect yourself from an event that could have a negative impact. This is true even though you may never be in an accident.
It is said that death and taxes are the only two certainties of life. Most people are fully prepared when April 15th rolls around, because the need for tax planning is a no-brainer. Strangely, many of the folks that fully understand this reality have made no plans at all for the other inevitability.
If you fit into this category, you should certainly consider taking action sooner rather than later. Estate planning is a must for all responsible adults, and a comprehensive estate plan will include an end-of-life component. We will look at the details here.
Longevity Can Lead to Incapacity
The Social Security Administration website has a life expectancy calculator. You plug in your birthday and your gender, and it tells you how long you can expect to live from a statistical standpoint. If you enter numbers for someone that is turning 67 today, you will see that the anticipated lifespan is 85 for men, and 87 for women.
Once you reach your mid-80s, the looming specter of dementia is very real indeed. The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that about 40% of people in this age group have contracted the disease. This is not the only form of dementia, and there are other types of incapacity that make it impossible for people to communicate sound decisions on their own.
Of course, you don’t have to be an octogenarian to experience cognitive difficulties.
When you digest the information above, you can see why an incapacity component should be embedded in your broader estate plan. One way to empower a financial decision maker would be to use a living trust rather than a last will. There are many advantages, and we will look at them in a different blog post.
The one that is relevant here is the ability to name a disability trustee in the trust declaration. In the event of your incapacity, this individual or entity would act as the trust administrator.
To account for property that is not in the trust, or if you are not using a living trust, you can execute a durable power of attorney for property. This document would give the agent that is named the ability to make financial decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacity.
Advance directives for health care should be a part of any incapacity plan as well. One of them is a durable power of attorney for medical decision-making or health care proxy. With the addition of a living will, you can express your life-support preferences in a legally binding manner.
Attend a Free Estate Planning Seminar!
Since you are on this website, you must be looking for information about estate planning and elder law topics. You are in the right place, because we have many written resources here, and we also offer free seminars in person.
There is no charge to attend these sessions, so you have everything to gain and nothing to lose. We do ask that you register in advance, because seating is limited. You can do just that if you visit our seminar schedule page and follow the simple instructions once you identify the date that is right for you.