Estate planning is something that adults of all ages should take seriously because no one can predict the future and any day could be your last. This having been said, without question estate planning is going to become more and more immediately relevant as you reach the latter stages of your life. Of course you are going to be very focused on making sure that your loved ones are provided for after you pass away, but there are some other things to take into consideration as well. One of them is the possibility of incapacity.
One of the most surprising demographic statistics that you will hear involves the rapid aging of the population. The “oldest old” is a term that is used in geriatrics to describe those who have reached the age of 85 and above. This group is the fastest-growing among us, so the reality is that you may well live into your mid-to-late 80’s and beyond.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association 13% of people who reach the age of 65 are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This percentage increases with age, and some 43% of the oldest old are Alzheimer’s sufferers. Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia and of course this can render the patient unable to make sound financial and medical decisions.
When you pragmatically assess the above statistics it becomes clear that one must make plans in advance to address the possibility of incapacitation. The way that this is routinely done is through the execution of durable powers of attorney. You may choose to execute two different powers of attorney, one for financial decision-making and one for medical decision-making and name a different respective attorney-in-fact for each.
If you were to become incapacitated and unable to make your own decisions without taking any steps to protect yourself, a guardian could be appointed to act in your behalf by the court and you could become a ward of the state. If you wait too long, you could find yourself in this position. Most people would prefer to choose their own potential representatives, and this is a large part of what incapacity planning is all about.