Planning ahead for the future should be looked upon as a holistic endeavor. You plan ahead for your active retirement years, and they naturally lead into the twilight years. Ultimately you will pass away, and this is where estate planning comes in.
Incapacity is a very real possibility during those twilight years. There are other causes of incapacity, but the widespread nature of Alzheimer’s disease alone makes incapacity planning absolutely essential.
The Alzheimer’s Association tells us that approximately 13 percent of people who are at least 65 have the disease. The likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s disease increases as you get older. More than four out of every 10 individuals who have reached the age of 85 are Alzheimer’s sufferers.
Alzheimer’s induced dementia is one type of incapacity, but there are others. Sometimes people become completely unable to communicate prior to passing away.
Who would make decisions on your behalf if you were incapacitated to one degree or another? In a very real sense, it’s up to you. If you do not plan ahead in advance, the state would be petitioned to appoint a guardian to handle your affairs in the event of your incapacitation.
You also have the option of taking matters into your own hands by executing a legally binding device called a durable power of attorney. A durable power of attorney for health care would be used to empower an agent or attorney-in-fact to make medical decisions on your behalf if you were to become incapacitated.
The reason why you would want to use a durable power of attorney is because a standard power of attorney that is not designated as durable would not remain in effect if you were to become incapacitated.
A durable power of attorney for health care is one of the two primary advance health care directives that are widely recommended by elder law attorneys and other geriatric professionals. The other advance directive that is considered to be a must is the living will.
With a living will you record your wishes regarding the use of life-support measures.
When you have a durable power of attorney for health care in place along with a living will, you have a decision-maker at the ready who is empowered to make decisions if circumstances arise that are not specifically addressed in the living will.
People are living longer and longer lives. It is statistically likely that you will live into your 80s once you reach the age of 65. People do not typically pass away after being in perfectly good health during the period preceding their passing.
All responsible adults should have an incapacity plan in place, and any solid plan is typically going to include a durable power of attorney for health care.