According to the Press Herald in “Planning for Incapacity: Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney,” Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia affect one third of seniors. Since the chances of incapacitation are so high among seniors, it is imperative that they take the time to create two documents before they are needed. The two documents are:
- A healthcare directive, which documents end-of-life wishes and gives one or more people the legal right to make healthcare decisions on your behalf while you are living.
- A durable power of attorney, which is similar to a healthcare directive but is focused more on financial matters.
Oftentimes, people wait until they are “old enough” to have these documents created. Although the chances of incapacitation may increase with age, waiting to complete these documents until one is old is a big mistake. We never know when they will be needed, and we never know what the future will bring. However, it is safe to assume that at some point these documents will be needed.
For adult children, keep an eye on your aging parent’s orientation. If you see a marked change in behavior, if they seem not to know what day/date/time it is, or if you see them appearing confused about things they used to handle with no issues, then it’s time to start talking and planning. Don’t neglect to speak with other family members in order to ensure that you are all on the same page. That will make the process easier going forward.
When considering who should be named, think about the people who know your loved ones well, are familiar with their values and wishes, and are in the best position to advocate on their behalf. One person might be very good with finances, and another might have the knack for navigating health care issues and caregivers. There needs to be a conversation about their responsibilities and expectations, should they take on the role.
What if these documents aren’t created in time?
Here’s where things can get expensive, time-consuming, and stressful. Without these and other estate planning documents in place, the court must become involved with guardianship and conservatorship planning.
Among other problems, it is possible that the court may appoint someone you and your family may not know to be responsible for their financial and medical well-being. Having a healthcare directive and a durable power of attorney in place will ensure that the family remains in charge of their loved ones.
An estate planning attorney can advise you on creating an estate plan that fits your unique circumstances and includes a health care directive and durable power of attorney.
Reference: Press Herald (May 20, 2019) “Planning for Incapacity: Advance Healthcare Directive and Durable Power of Attorney.”