Everyone needs to take part in long-term care planning for the day they need to cover medical expenses for their old-age and cannot make important decisions. However, people face obstacles when they do not have a spouse or child to act on their behalf under a power or attorney, health care directive or trusts.
If a person has not executed these documents, a judge will put their case in a conservatorship and appoint a conservator or guardian to make decisions on that person’s behalf. Unfortunately, that person may not be an individual that the incapacitated person would have earlier selected. They may make decisions without knowing the person’s earlier wishes or intent.
A person who is unmarried or childless should, nonetheless, name a stable and entrusted person to make these decisions. A life partner, close friend or relative can be considered.
Conversations should be held with them before designating them as agents to assure that they are aware of what is expected from them. Regardless of who is appointed to perform these duties, it is important to name second and third successors in case the first agent dies before the incapacitated person.
If this option is unavailable, professional private guardians can take over the daily business of an incapacitated person. This is an important appointment because that person may perform these duties for many years and may need legal, real estate, tax and financial expertise. A professional guardian may be appointed as a co-agent with a trusted relative or friend.
Selection of a profressional requires research, interviews and review of references. Their hours, fees services and experience should be reviewed.
Other important issues include whether they are insured or bonded, certified by the National Guardian Association or licensed as a professional fiduciary and are familiar with medical issues. They should also disclose whether they utilize staff, perform background checks on their employees and have insurance for employee theft and liability.
Finally, a person must decide when decision-making authority is granted to their agent. A person who receives this authority must also be entrusted to recognize when dementia occurs, and a person becomes incapacitated.
An attorney can help with this planning, performing these services or selecting a professional. They can also help draft legally-valid documents that meet long-term needs.
Source: Forbes, “Estate and long-term care planning for solo agers,” By Sara Zeff Geber, April 23, 2018