A lot of people like to say “it will never happen to me,” but the reality is that incapacity does strike a significant percentage of people who reach an advanced age. This is something to take very seriously, and if you want to cover all of your bases you should prepare for the possibility pragmatically and intelligently.
The ubiquity of Alzheimer’s disease is something that many individuals are simply not aware of. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 13% of people who reach the age of 65 have Alzheimer’s disease. As you get older the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s increases, and it is more prevalent among women. 16% of women who reach the age of 71 have Alzheimer’s. Among the oldest old, Alzheimer’s is very common, striking 43% of those 85 years of age and older.
Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia, and dementia sufferers can find it impossible to make sound medical and financial decisions. If you were to fall into such a condition without making any plans in advance a guardian could be appointed by the court to act in your behalf and you would subsequently become a ward of the state.
To avoid this you must take action and add an incapacity component to your overall estate plan. Most people execute a durable financial power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for health care to protect themselves. The ideal financial decision-maker may differ from the person you would like to see making medical decisions in your behalf. So, you can name two different respective attorneys-in-fact who will be empowered to make decisions for you should you become unable to do so for yourself.
If you do not have an incapacity plan in place at present, it would probably be a good idea to arrange for a consultation with your estate planning attorney sooner rather than later so that you can execute these important documents.