When you think about the subject of estate planning, you probably envision postmortem asset transfers; you may not consider the need for a power of attorney. Indeed, it is important to make sure that your resources get into the hands of your loved ones in an efficient and effective manner. This is typically done through the creation of a last will or a trust of some kind. The best choice will depend upon the circumstances, and our firm would be more than glad to advise you if you are uncertain about the best way to proceed.
The above being stated, there is another aspect that should be taken into consideration. People are living longer and longer lives, and longevity statistics are quite eye-catching. The United States Census Bureau gathers population data every 10 years, and they drill down to examine certain demographic trends. Between 2000 and 2010, they identified a very interesting reality. The segment of the population that was between 85 and 94 years of age grew faster than any other age group during this10 year period.
If you were to visit the Social Security Administration website, you would find a life expectancy calculator. We have plugged in the numbers hypothetically, and if today was your 67th birthday, it is likely that you will live into your mid-80s and perhaps beyond. Clearly, most people expect live long enough to collect Social Security, and if you are fortunate enough to do so, you will probably live a rather long life.
Incapacity and Alzheimer’s Disease
We have all heard of Alzheimer’s disease, but most people would assume that it only strikes a rather small percentage of the senior population. In fact, the numbers tell a different tale. The Alzheimer’s Association is a great source of information about this horrible disease. They do a lot of work educating the public, and they also provide resources and support for Alzheimer’s sufferers and their families.
According to their research, one out of every eight people that are 65 years of age and older has contracted Alzheimer’s disease. That is a pretty significant percentage in and of itself, but the numbers get higher as people get older. Elders that are 85 years of age and up are considered to be the “oldest old” in geriatric circles. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, approximately 40% of the oldest old have Alzheimer’s disease. Clearly, people that are faced with this challenge are going to find it difficult to impossible to make sound decisions.
Adult Guardianship and Conservatorship
Who would make decisions on your behalf if you were to become unable to handle your affairs? In the state of Michigan, if you have made no plans to account for this eventuality, interested parties can approach the probate court. They would present a case with regard to your incapacity, and the court would make a determination.
An adult guardian could be appointed to handle your personal affairs under these circumstances. When it comes to financial decision-making, the court could empower a conservator to manage your monetary resources. This is all well and good, but there are some potential problems that can enter the picture when guardianship and conservatorship hearings are convened.
For one thing, the people that are ultimately chosen to represent your interests may not be the individuals that you would have chosen if you had made you own choices in advance. Secondly, members of your family could disagree with regard to the choice of individuals who should be empowered to handle your affairs.
Durable Powers of Attorney
Now that we have set the stage, we can get to the point of this blog post. To prevent a guardianship and conservatorship, you can execute legally binding documents called durable powers of attorney. You could include a durable financial power of attorney to name someone to manage your financial affairs, and you can add a durable power of attorney for health care to empower a medical decision maker.
Another incapacity planning document that should be included is a living will. With this document, you state your preferences with regard to the utilization of life-sustaining measures if you were to become incapacitated and unable to communicate.
Attend a Free Seminar!
Our estate planning attorneys are holding a number of seminars over the coming weeks, and you can learn a lot if you attend one of the sessions. There is no charge, but we do ask that you register in advance, because space is limited. To see the schedule and obtain registration information, visit our seminar page.