Studies indicate that the average life span is 78 years. This figure is calculated by including people who pass away at all ages. As you get older, your life expectancy will increase beyond this overall average. Once you reach the age of 65, it becomes statistically likely that you will live into your 80s.
In fact, according to the United States Census Bureau, the portion of the population that was between 85 and 94 grew faster than any other decade-long age grouping between the last two censuses.
People are living longer and longer lives, and as medical science advances you have to assume that this pattern will continue. Clearly, longevity has its advantages, but there are some challenges that go along with it as well. When you look at the facts, you can see why disability planning should be taken seriously.
Incapacity Among Seniors
Once you start to reach an advanced age, the possibility of incapacity becomes very real indeed. There are various different causes behind incapacity, but Alzheimer’s is the largest threat. Alzheimer’s disease strikes around four out of every 10 people who are at least 85. If you are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease you may well experience dementia. This may make it impossible for you to handle your own affairs.
When you factor in the other causes of incapacity, you can see that this is a real and present eventuality that everyone should consider in advance.
Guardianship proceedings would come into play if interested parties were to petition the court to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf because you could no longer handle your own affairs. There is nothing inherently wrong with the process. It is a logical societal reaction to a difficult situation. The court will exercise due diligence and make an informed determination.
However, in the end, the guardian that is chosen may not be someone that you would have selected. In addition to this, different family members can have different ideas with regard to the proper choice of guardian. This can create acrimony among members of your family during a difficult time. There can also be significant legal expenses incurred during a guardianship proceeding.
You can eliminate the need for a guardianship proceeding by taking action on your own in advance. An incapacity plan should be part of your broader estate plan. This component will typically include a document called a durable power of attorney.
Most people are aware of what a power of attorney can accomplish. With this legal device, you empower another person to act on your behalf.
A standard power of attorney will not remain in effect if the grantor of the device becomes incapacitated. For this reason, durable powers of attorney are utilized for incapacity planning purposes. A durable power of attorney will remain in effect even if the grantor becomes incapacitated.
With a durable financial power of attorney, you can name a decision-maker who will handle your financial affairs. You could also execute a health care proxy or durable power of attorney for health care with which you name someone to act on your behalf for health care purposes.
When it comes to finances, there is an additional possibility. If you establish a revocable living trust as your primary vehicle of asset transfer, you could empower a disability trustee to administer the trust if you ever become unable to make sound financial decisions.
Another health care document that should be included when you are engaged in your disability planning efforts is a living will. This type of will is different from the last will or last will and testament that can be used to transfer assets. You state your preferences with regard to the utilization of life-sustaining measures when you create a living will.
Attend a Free Seminar
We have provided some important information about disability planning in this relatively brief blog post. This is one key component that should be contained within a broader, comprehensive estate plan.
If you have been procrastinating when it comes to estate planning, you are not alone. Most adults are unprepared, and they often fail to take action because they do not know where to begin.
We make an effort to provide a bridge. Our firm offers estate planning and elder law seminars on an ongoing basis, so you can reach out to begin a relationship on this level. There are a number of dates coming up, and you can visit our seminar page to obtain details and registration information. We hope to see you at the session that fits into your schedule!
Mr. Kraft assists clients primarily in the areas of estate planning and administration, Medicaid planning, federal and state taxation, real estate and corporate law, bringing the added perspective of an accounting background to his work.