Another generation is approaching retirement, and many of them are retiring never having been married or widowed without children. If there is no next-of-kin to help you with your affairs as you age, what options do you have to ensure you are cared for and that your needs and wants are met? It is important to have planning documents in place that address those issues.
What might happen to you if you were to experience a cognitive decline or sudden health emergency that leaves you unable to make critical financial and healthcare decisions for yourself? If you do not have a revocable trust, will, durable power of attorney, or designation of healthcare surrogate in place, a court will appoint a conservator, guardian, or social worker. Not only could this be costly to your estate, but it could also mean that although courts establish rules and guidelines on what an appointed individual has control over, that person might make decisions without your direction and contrary to your intentions.
Trusts and wills
You can appoint a professional, such as an attorney or corporate trustee, as your successor trustee or executor to ensure your trust and estate are administered according to its terms and in your best interests. They will also be able to manage all your stated wishes with continuity. An attorney or corporate trustee will charge a fee, which may include administrative services, record keeping, and asset management. They might charge fees separately for each service they provide or a single fee based on a schedule or percentage of your assets. When interviewing someone about their services, ensure that their fees and how they are charged are a part of your discussion.
It is also good to have an established relationship with a primary care physician. Most trusts require proof of incapacity before a successor can step in. If an incapacitation letter is needed, your primary care physician can easily document that you can no longer make your own decisions. On the contrary, if you suddenly fall ill and are transported to a hospital, the attending physician will not know you as well as your primary care physician, which may make it harder for him or her to provide the needed documentation.
Healthcare surrogate and power of attorney
It is important to have your health wishes and end-of-life preferences in writing. You might designate a close friend as a healthcare surrogate, and an alternative should the first person not be available to make decisions on your behalf. You will want to discuss your wishes in detail with them. Not only can a healthcare surrogate step in on end-of-life decisions, but they can make healthcare decisions for you if you are ill, incapacitated, or in an accident and unable to speak for yourself.
Your healthcare surrogate may also choose to work with a care management agency, which will have skilled health and medical professionals to provide guidance. These professionals will interact with the healthcare system to make sure you are receiving proper care by coordinating things like your medical treatments or the monitoring of your caregivers. A care management agency will have the expertise to help you navigate such issues as your long-term care needs, insurance, and private care.
When it comes to assigning power of attorney (POA), you might consider the person you have designated as your healthcare surrogate. This individual should be capable of taking on substantial responsibility. Acting as someone’s POA or healthcare surrogate can be time consuming, so that person must be willing to serve, able to communicate clearly, and advocate firmly for you and your wishes. You might also want that person to be someone who lives nearby in the event they need to be at your side quickly.
It is important to consult with your estate planning attorney to discuss the applicable laws and tailor an estate plan specifically for you. Don’t allow the court system to decide who is going to oversee the wealth you have amassed over a lifetime or make medical decisions, not of your choosing.
HBKS Wealth Advisors can help. We are here to provide financial guidance through all the stages of your life. Contact our office at (239) 263-1960, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org to begin a discussion about planning for your long and comfortable retirement.
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