Every February, American Heart Month begins as a friendly reminder to think about your heart health. This commemorative month was established in 1963 and prompts us to combat heart disease, the leading cause of death in America. Even with the high mortality rate of Covid-19, heart disease continues to be the dominant cause of death in the United States. Ultimately, American Heart Month is a great time to review your heart health and build healthy habits for the future. Of course, don't forget to consider who will act as your medical agent if you are unexpectedly stricken with a heart attack.
Various states have differing titles for medical agents, including a medical power of attorney, an advanced health care directive agent, a health surrogate, a health or medical proxy, and more. Regardless of the title your state uses, this person will make all medical decisions for you if you ever become too ill to communicate your wishes.
This person plays an essential role in making critical decisions regarding your health. Your medical agent should understand your medical wishes because they decide what care you will or won’t receive by communicating with providers caring for you. Also, keep in mind this person gains access to your private information, so you should consider all these factors before deciding who will act on your behalf.
It is easy to assume anyone close to you is fit to be your medical agent, but this is not the case. Consider someone you know will stay level-headed in emotional situations since everyone handles stress differently. Your medical agent should be reasonably assertive because of the many family opinions and doctor recommendations they will have to navigate. This person should be comfortable silencing others opinion to focus on your wants and needs when making decisions.
Your medical agent should live close to you because something unexpected can come up at any moment. This person will have to act on your behalf quickly and efficiently so that you don’t have to wait for care if you are incapable of speaking for yourself.
It is crucial to make sure your medical agent is willing to set time aside in case of a medical emergency. Having this title is both time-consuming and emotionally draining, so reach out to the person you’d like to act as your medical agent and address any concerns. Doing this in advance will help you choose someone willing to take on this responsibility.
You must choose a medical agent who will make decisions following your wishes. The person you choose needs to set aside their own wants to focus on making the decisions you expressed previously. Your medical agent acts as your voice even if they don't agree with your course of action, so be sure to find someone you can trust to follow your wishes if you are incapable.
Remember, even if you believe someone is right for the title, some states prohibit certain individuals from acting as a medical agent.
Many states don’t allow minors to be patient advocates, but there can be exceptions. Also, remember not everyone over the age of 18 qualifies to act as a medical agent so talking with a professional can help clarify state restrictions.
Not every state restricts health care providers from acting as medical agents, but most do. These restrictions can be overlooked if the health care provider is a family member, but make sure to take the proper steps to allow this. Furthermore, Kansas, Missouri, and Kentucky allow your health care provider to act as your medical agent if they are an active member of your religious organization.
If you haven’t decided who will act as your medical agent, Anderson, Dorn, and Rader can help determine the best fit. If you need someone to act as a backup, our attorneys are willing to build a strong relationship with you to understand your needs in case of an emergency. We will ensure that your wishes are carried out and written as required by state law.
Contact us now to discuss how to properly name a medical agent, as well as discuss other advance care directives.
Estate planning attorneys always emphasize the fact that there is no one universal approach that is right for each and every person. The optimal way to proceed will depend upon the circumstances, and this one of the major reasons why it is important to work with a qualified lawyer.
This being stated, there are certain core components that an estate planning will have in a general sense. Let’s look at the essentials that should be addressed in every estate plan.
Far too many people assume that a will is the right choice as the document that you should use to express your final wishes. In reality, a last will is usually not going to be the best choice unless the situation is extremely simple and straightforward.
Why is a will inadequate in a lot of cases? One reason why a will is less than ideal is the fact that it would be admitted to probate. This is a costly and time-consuming legal process that strips your family of privacy, because probate records are available to anyone that is interested in them.
There are also limitations when you use a last will. Unless you include a testamentary trust as part of the plan, the will would facilitate lump-sum asset transfers. This can be a source of concern if you have people on your inheritance list that are not great at handling money.
In addition to your desires, you also have to consider the life situation of the individuals that will be receiving inheritances. For example, people with special needs typically rely on Medicaid for health insurance, and they get income through the Supplemental Security Income program.
These are need-based government benefits, so an improvement in financial status can cause a loss of eligibility. If you name someone that is in this position in a last will, they would directly receive an inheritance, and this could impact benefit eligibility going forward.
This is just one example, but there are other reasons why a will would not be the best choice to provide for some people.
There are a number of different types of trusts that can be used to satisfy various estate planning aims. They are definitely not strictly used by wealthy individuals, and some of them wouldn’t even be appropriate for high net worth families. Once again, you should explore your options thoroughly with the benefit of professional guidance.
One of the cold hard truths that you should understand when you are thinking about the future is the possibility of latter life incapacity. It is not a pleasant thing to consider, but about one third of people that are 85 years of age and older have Alzheimer’s disease.
This is not the only cause of incapacity, so you should definitely prepare for this eventuality in advance. If you do not, people close to you could petition the state to appoint a guardian to act on your behalf. You would become a ward of the state, and this is not a very pleasant fate.
A guardianship can be avoided if you take the right steps to prepare for possible incapacity. If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee that would administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.
Another document that you can use if you do not have a trust is a durable power of attorney for property. The agent that you choose would be able to act as your representative if you ever become incapacitated.
You should actually have one of these documents even if you have a living trust, because the agent would be able to manage property that was never conveyed into the trust.
The last pieces to the basic estate plan puzzle are advance directives for health care. With a living will, you state your preferences regarding the utilization of life-sustaining measures.
You would add a durable power of attorney for health care to name an agent to make medical decisions on your behalf. These would be decisions that are not directly connected to life-support matters.
Another document that is necessary is a HIPAA release form. This will give health care professionals the ability to speak freely with the person or people that you name on the form.
We have scheduled a number of webinars that you can attend to obtain some important information about the estate planning process. There is no charge, and you can check out the dates and obtain registration information if you visit our webinar page.
A lot of people like to roll up their sleeves and embrace do-it-yourself projects, and there is certainly nothing wrong with taking the initiative to get things done on your own. It can save you money, and it can become an enjoyable hobby. This being stated, it is important to know where to draw the line when it comes to the DIY phenomenon.
There are websites on the Internet that sell do-it-yourself legal documents, including last wills and other estate planning devices. Since it doesn’t take any particular acquired skill to fill in the blanks on a worksheet, it can seem as though you can create your own will using tools that you can easily find online.
Is it wise to put an estate plan together on your own without any legal advice? This is a question that the people at the highly respected website and magazine Consumer Reports were interested in answering several years ago. To do just that, they launched an initiative that would give them some insight into the efficacy of DIY estate planning, or the lack thereof.
They assigned staff members to create last wills using downloads and worksheets that were being offered by three of the leading purveyors of do-it-yourself legal documents. In addition to wills, they actually used online tools to produce a few other legal documents that are not related to estate planning. Of course, we will stick to the last wills here.
Once the documents were in their hands, they had to find legal scholars that were qualified to examine them. Gerry Beyer from Texas Tech University School of Law was engaged, along with Norman Silber, a legal expert from Yale University. The third set of experienced eyes belonged to Hofstra University contract specialist Richard K. Neumann.
At the end of the process, they determined that there were unnecessary limitations in these templates. They found that it is unlikely that the DIY products that are on the market would meet your needs unless your intentions are extremely simple, like leaving everything to your spouse.
The fact that you really can’t trust boilerplate documents that you can get online is only one part of the equation when it comes to the shortcomings of do-it-yourself estate planning. As a layperson, how would you know what documents you should use?
And yes, we are using the plural, because a well-constructed estate plan will cover multiple bases.
When it comes to asset transfers, a last will is not your only option, and in fact, it is not the right choice for many people. A will must be admitted to probate, which is a costly and time-consuming process that strips your family of privacy.
If you were to use a revocable living trust instead, the drawbacks of probate would be avoided. There are additional benefits that can be taken advantage of as well, like the ability to instruct the trustee to distribute limited assets over an extended period of time to protect a spendthrift heir.
This is just one of numerous different types of trusts that can be utilized when you are planning your estate. The ideal choice will depend upon the circumstances, and this is why it is important to discuss your unique situation with a licensed estate planning attorney before you make any impetuous decisions.
Getting back to the concept of multiple different objectives to address, end-of-life issues should be confronted when you are planning your estate. A significant percentage of elders become unable to make sound decisions at some point in time due to Alzheimer’s disease or dementia that is triggered by some other underlying condition.
If you have a living trust, you could name a disability trustee to manage the assets if you become unable to do so yourself. You can also add a durable power of attorney for property to give someone the ability to make decisions on your behalf concerning property that is not in the trust.
A durable power of attorney for health care decision-making will also be part of a typical incapacity plan. This is an advance directive for health care, and a living will is another advance directive that should be included. With this type of will, you state your preferences regarding the utilization of artificial life-sustaining measures.
We have prepared a very useful worksheet that you can use to gain some additional insight into the estate planning process. It is being offered free of charge, and you can visit our worksheet download page to get your copy.
Planning for the future sometimes involves considering uncomfortable topics such as mental or physical incapacity. To prepare for this eventuality you will need to select an individual who can handle your financial and medical affairs. If you have established a revocable living trust your successor trustee would be in a position to manage your assets in trust. A durable power of attorney would authorize the agent that you select to manage your assets that you own that are not in trust. The health care power of attorney is used to appoint an agent to make medical decisions in the event of your incapacity. The individual that you may want to see managing your financial affairs may not be the same person who you would like to make medical decisions in your behalf.
One thing to remember is the need to provide your health care agent with the authority to access your medical records. The medical community may not release medical information to anyone without your consent. This is accomplished by including a Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) release when you are executing your estate planning documents. To learn more about planning ahead for the possibility of incapacity get in touch with us for a free consultation. You can contact us by clicking this link: Reno Incapacity Planning Consultation
If you are one that likes to be prepared for life's eventualities then you should consider the possibility of mental incapacity. According to the Alzheimer's Association 13% of senior citizens suffer from Alzheimer's disease, and this rises to about 40% among individuals who have reached the age of 85. Alzheimer's causes dementia among other things and people who are suffering from dementia can find themselves unable to make sound decisions.
To prepare yourself, you may want to consider creating a living trust with incapacity safeguards included. In many cases the grantor will serve as the trustee while he or she is alive and fully capable of decision-making. However, you could also name a disability trustee who would administer the resources in the trust if the grantor and primary trustee was to become incapacitated.
In addition, durable powers of attorney are recommended as a way to empower people of your own choosing to make decisions in your behalf should you become unable to do so in the future due to incapacity.
If interested parties were to suspect that you have become incapable to manage your own affairs effectively they could petition the court to appoint a guardian to make decisions in your behalf. This can be an expensive, time consuming and humiliating process. This possibility can be avoided if you plan ahead intelligently. The best way to do so is with the assistance of an experienced and licensed Reno estate planning attorney.
When you are engaged in legacy planning you are likely to recognize the fact that the period preceding your death is going to have to be planned for as well. Long-term planning that includes your retirement, your twilight years, and the ultimate distribution of your assets after your death is key if you want to be completely prepared. Mapping out an intelligently conceived path with the assistance of an estate planning attorney is clearly the prudent course of action. People who seem to have all of their ducks in a row as they get older are not lucky; they had the foresight to plan ahead.
One of the things that you need to take into consideration is the high cost of long-term care. According to the United States Department of Health and Human Services seven out of every ten Americans are going to need some form of long-term care eventually. There are a lot of people who don't care about this because they are under the impression that Medicare will take care of all of their health care needs once they reach the age of 65.
This line of thinking can get you into trouble because Medicare does not cover long-term care. Medicaid does cover it as the laws stand today, but many people are going to have to plan very carefully to qualify while still retaining a significant portion of their assets.
Another thing to consider with regard to the eventualities of aging is the possibility of dementia setting in. The oldest old (people 85 years of age and up) are the fastest growing age group in the United States, and upwards of half of people who reach this age are suffering from some degree of dementia. Planning for possible incapacity is important, and this is a matter to discuss with your estate planning attorney.
Though there are estates that will require some complex plans, the majority of people are going to have to concern themselves with two major issues. The first one is very obvious: you must execute a vehicle or vehicles of asset transfer. The most common way to leave your property to your loved ones is through the utilization of a last will.
Though the last will is the most widely used vehicle of asset transfer, it is not always the best one. When you use a last will your estate must pass through the process of probate, which can be lengthy, expensive, and public. Many people choose to avoid probate for these reasons, and the most common way of doing so is through the creation of a revocable living trust.
With these trusts you appoint a trustee, which can sometimes be a bank or trust company, who will administer distributions to your beneficiaries after your death in accordance with your wishes. These asset transfers take place outside the process of probate, and the creation of the trust provides some asset protection for your beneficiaries as well.
In addition to facilitating the transfer of assets, the fundamental estate plan will also include an incapacity planning component. You can protect yourself through the execution of a durable financial power of attorney and a durable power of attorney for health care. With these documents you empower representatives of your choosing to make decisions on your behalf should you become unable to do so due to incapacitation.
These are a couple of the basics, but in the end the best way to truly demystify the process of estate planning is to consult with an experienced estate planning attorney. This type of communication is invaluable, and you will invariably feel a weight lifted off your shoulders when you exit your attorney's office with a solid estate planning strategy having been decided upon.
When someone mentions estate planning you probably think of wills and trusts , but it may be useful to look at the broader picture. We are all aware of the need to engage in retirement planning, and of course preparing for the distribution of your remaining assets to your loved ones after you pass away. But what about planning for the unexpected while you are still living?
Everyone wants to live a long and robust life, and indeed lifespans are expanding and people are living longer than ever. The fact is that the "oldest old," people 85 years old and older, are the fastest-growing segment of American society. So when you examine the data, it is becoming increasingly likely that you will live into your mid-80s and beyond. Though on the surface this can seem like a purely positive development, the reality is that incapacity is very common among people who reach such an advanced age and it must be planned for in advance.
To make sure that all of your bases are covered from a medical perspective estate planning attorneys will generally recommend the execution of advance directives. The two advance directives that are most widely utilized are the living will and the health care proxy. When you draw up a living will you instruct your physician as to your preferences with regard to potential medical procedures. The issue of whether or not you would want to be kept alive on artificial life support systems if your condition was deemed terminal is generally at the core of these documents.
A health care proxy is executed to name someone who can act as your agent and make medical decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so due to incapacitation. Generally, medical professionals prefer to deal with the health care proxy, so a family member or close friend is making the final call, but if the proxy cannot be found, the physician can make the decision based upon the preferences expressed in your living will.