Have you thought about the possibility that you or your spouse could become incapable of handling your own medical or financial affairs? Avoiding the need for a conservatorship – the process whereby someone is appointed by a court to assume responsibility for the property or the personal welfare of an incapacitated adult – is important.
A serious illness or accident can happen suddenly at any age. And, as Americans are living longer than ever, we have a greater likelihood of experiencing senility, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, or a host of other ailments during our golden years, any of which will affect our ability to make sound decisions about healthcare, or to pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell assets, or otherwise manage our affairs.
The best way to avoid the need for expensive and burdensome conservatorship proceedings is through estate planning tools like these:
Durable Financial Powers of Attorney — Executing a durable power of attorney enables you to name a conservator to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated. The conservator is empowered to handle all your financial and business affairs in case you cannot do so yourself. Although it can become effective immediately, it only becomes active if or when you become incapacitated. To be valid, it must be executed prior to any incapacitation.
Advance Health Care Directives — Executing an advance health care directive designates someone to serve as your agent for making health care decisions in the event of your incapacitation. This can include temporary hospitalizations or end-of-life care, and your choice should be someone you trust to honor your wishes when it comes to your medical care. This document must also be executed prior to any incapacitation to be valid.
Revocable Living Trusts — Executing a revocable living trust avoids the need for conservatorship proceedings by designating a successor trustee to serve during a period of incapacity. You can serve as co-trustee along with a trusted person or financial institution of your choice. If you become incapacitated, the co-trustee you have designated will take over the management of your assets held in the trust. Remember though, this is only valid if your property is properly titled in the name of your Living Trust before incapacity.
One of the main goals of my law practice is to help families like yours plan for the protection of yourself and your loved ones. If you’re ready to start thinking about your own estate planning, call my office today to schedule a time for us to sit down and talk.