A lot of people think that estate planning begins and ends with the financial part of the equation, but this is really not the case. It is also important to address eventualities that you may face toward the end of your life, such as incapacity or incompetency. They are not especially pleasant to consider, but a difficult situation can be much worse if you enter into it when you are completely unprepared.
The population is aging rapidly because of the fact that the baby boomer generation is attaining senior citizen status. Of course, if you plan ahead effectively for retirement, your “golden years” can be full of travel, leisure activities, and quality time with your family.
This is something to look forward to, but once you reach the age of full Social Security eligibility, your life expectancy will be 85 if you are a man, and 87 if you are a woman. The United States Census Bureau has found that the segment of the population that is between 85 and 94 years of age is growing faster than any other.
When you put these numbers into perspective, you can see that there is a very good chance that you will experience life as an octogenarian.
The Ubiquity of Alzheimer’s Disease
Alzheimer’s disease is a condition that we have all heard about, but when you look into it a bit, its widespread nature is quite surprising. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, one in 10 people that are 65 and older have contracted this disease. It strikes someone every 65 seconds, and by 2050, it is projected that 13.8 million American seniors will be suffering from Alzheimer’s.
This disease causes dementia and incapacity for seniors and come in many different forms. Clearly, the potential for latter life incapacity is something that everyone should take quite seriously.
What Can You Do?
There are a number of different steps that you can take to prepare yourself for possible incapacity, starting with the creation of a living trust. Many people think that a last will is the right choice as an asset transfer vehicle if you are not extremely wealthy. In fact, a living trust is a better choice for a number of different reasons.
We will cover all of them in a different blog post, but one of the advantages that you can gain if you use a living trust is the ability to prepare for incapacitation. While you are alive, you can act as the trustee of your living trust. In the trust declaration, you can name a disability trustee that would be empowered to administer the trust if you are still living, but incapacitated.
Your incapacity plan could include a durable power of attorney for property, which would give the agent the ability to manage your financial affairs. A durable power of attorney is another document that can be used to address incompetency later in life. This document gives an agent or attorney-in-fact the ability to make legally binding decisions on your behalf. You could execute one of these documents if you don’t have a living trust, and it would be useful even if you do, because you could have property in your personal possession that was never conveyed into the trust. A durable power of attorney for health care decisions should be part of incapacity planning.
In order for the health care agent to be able to make sound decisions, he or she must have access to your medical records. They are kept private unless you sign a HIPAA release form, so this is another piece to the puzzle.
How would you feel about being kept alive indefinitely through the utilization of artificial life-sustaining measures if there was no hope of recovery? You can answer this question through the inclusion of a living will.
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