HOW TO PLAN FOR DIMINISHING CAPACITY
By Sativa Boatman-Sloan Law Office of Sativa Boatman-Sloan, LLC 417-887-4170
Estate planning conversations shouldn’t focus solely on what will happen to your assets after death, but also on what may happen if you experience diminishing mental capacity during your lifetime as a result of an accident, disease, or medication. It can happen at any age.
A General Durable Power of Attorney (POA) focuses primarily on appointing someone to ensure efficient management of your financial and legal affairs. You may give the named agent(s) the authority to make decisions immediately or to only be capable of making those decisions once one or two doctors state in writing that you are no longer able to make those decisions for yourself.
Consideration must also be given to how healthcare decisions are made in the event of diminishing capacity. A Power of Attorney for Health Care allows you to delegate to another person the ability to make healthcare decisions in the event that you are unable to make them. The modernized advance healthcare directive language should also be included in the health care POA, which allows an individual to state his/her wishes prior to incapacity, including preferences for end-of-life care.
Another option is to create a Revocable Living Trust to control and manage assets for your benefit. You can choose to serve as your own Trustee until your medical doctor determines that you lack the capacity to make decisions. However, you can also decide to appoint someone else to be in charge of overseeing your assets even though you continue to remain competent. Trusts provide a lot of flexibility when someone owns real estate or has a complicated estate.
Having all the right documents signed does not take the place of having a conversation with your family regarding your philosophy regarding quality and extension of life, dignity, cost factors and your values that have led you to your decisions. If you have not had this difficult but important conversation, plan to have it soon. The risk of diminished capacity increases over time.