20 May Only “Old” People Need Disability Planning, Right? Cole McNiel, Associate Attorney
Here at Crain & Wooley, we constantly battle two things:
- Bad advice given by others who do not specialize in Estate Planning
- Procrastination by those who know they need to update or create an estate plan but put it off for a later date/age
Estate Planning is not reserved for individuals who fall into older demographics. There is a common misconception that only older individuals should plan for their potential disability. This is entirely wrong because you may encounter unanticipated medical events that affect you, your spouse, or both of you placing you into a life-threatening condition. If we knew when these events would occur, we would likely try to avoid them. This is simply not the case, and the best way to prepare for the unexpected is by having the proper disability planning documents in place. These documents consist of appointing Medical and Financial Power of Attorneys and by executing a Declaration of Guardian in advance of a medical emergency.
A Medical Power of Attorney allows for your appointed “Agent” to make decisions for you, in consultation with your doctors and physicians, if you are unable to do so due to being mentally or physically incapacitated. Appointing an Agent through a Financial Power of Attorney allows your Agent to work with financial institutions and sign documents, contracts, pay bills, and handle affairs within your estate. At Crain & Wooley, we recommend that both single and married individuals of all ages should have these documents updated to avoid unnecessary burdens to decision-making during already emotionally trying times.
If you do not have both Medical and Financial Power of Attorneys in place and you become incapacitated, then your loved ones will have to initiate a Guardianship proceeding through the courts to give individuals legal authority to manage your affairs for both your estate and your person. It can take months to get in front of a judge and result in large legal bills just to allow someone to access your financial accounts or to make medical decisions on your behalf. All of this can be avoided with up to date Power of Attorney documents. The judge does not factor in what age the proposed incapacitated ward is. The judge will assess the need for guardianship by making a legal decision based on the level of incapacity of the proposed ward. People of ALL AGES can be deemed incapacitated and without the proper planning, your assets and health could be at risk due to procrastinating your estate plan.
To learn more about disability planning, email us your questions today.