Most of us are familiar with the concept of a will-- the document that lays out who will receive the things you own and the money you have after you’ve passed away. But what if you need help managing your affairs before death? How can you guarantee that you won’t be taken financial advantage of, or that your healthcare will be handled according to your wishes, if you’re unable to advocate for yourself? That’s where other kinds of legal documents can be useful.
The perfect time to discuss measures like revocable trusts, conservatorships, and power of attorney is when you are considering moving into a senior living facility, or if you already a member of a retirement community. Discuss with your loved ones how you want medical decisions to be made on your behalf, and who the best point person might be to handle the management of your estate or trust, your legal decisions, and/or your finances.
A revocable trust can even do double duty in tandem with or in lieu of the traditional will, outlining how your affairs should be handled during your lifetime as well as after your death. And if your needs change or you change your mind about who you want to put in charge of administering the trust, that’s entirely possible with this type of arrangement.
Power of attorney is another way you can appoint a backup person to handle your money, medical needs, and legal proceedings even if you aren’t able to speak for yourself or make decisions. That could occur in such instances as advanced dementia and Alzheimer’s, if you have a disease or condition that causes you to become unconscious or brain dead, or if you become severely disabled. You can also appoint multiple people as power of attorney, which could be one way to ensure no one in your trusted circle takes on more responsibility than they want to or can accommodate.
A conservatorship is typically only used when the person it’s designed to protect is already unable to care for themselves, including being unable to appoint power of attorney. In the case of a conservatorship, the conservator must go to court and prove that the beneficiary needs assistance in managing his or her finances, medical decisions, and other aspects of care. The conservator must also provide documentation to the court once a year to demonstrate how the beneficiary’s money is being managed, and to update the court on the beneficiary’s condition.
All of these measures are designed to protect you in the most vulnerable and challenging of occasions, and to provide clear instructions not only to your loved ones, but also to your caregivers. By having legal documentation in place that indicates who can make decisions for you, you are also providing your senior care facility with information on which point person to communicate with. That can reduce confusion should you experience a sudden decline, create a clear strategy for how to handle extended illness, or even a transition from assisted living to a memory care facility like Maybelle Carter’s Remembrance Village.
If you want to take that first step towards long-term planning for the future, contact an attorney who specializes in estate law, or a trusted medical professional who can help you draw up a DNR or advanced directive. Though it might be trying to contemplate how to handle challenges you hope not to face, you can rest easy knowing that you and your loved ones have a clear plan and legal arrangements in place. With that taken care of, you can get back to living your best life.