When you are planning for the latter stages of your life one of the things you must take into consideration is the possibility of incapacity. These days people are living to an advanced age rather routinely, with the oldest old being the fastest-growing age demographic subset. As it becomes more and more likely that you will live into your mid-to-late 80s and beyond, incapacitation becomes a very real possibility and it is something that must be planned for in advance.
The leading cause of mental incapacity in the United States today by a significant margin is Alzheimer’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association released an in-depth study in 2010 that provides us with some very useful insight. Their study suggests that Alzheimer’s strikes one out of every eight people who reach the age of 65 (this equates to 13%). As you might expect the percentages rise as you get older. Perhaps surprisingly, no less than 43% of people age 85 and up are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease.
Alzheimer’s disease causes dementia in its victims, and dementia can make it impossible to grasp difficult concepts and make rational decisions. If you were to become unable to make sound decisions due to dementia, interested parties could petition the court to appoint a guardian to act in your behalf. You would have no control over who this person is, and if the court found for the petitioner you would become a ward of the state.
This is where incapacity planning comes in. The wise course of action would be to proactively execute durable powers of attorney naming representatives to act in your behalf should you become incapacitated. If you do not have such documents in place you’re putting yourself and your family at risk. Contact an experienced estate planning attorney as soon as you can to arrange for an initial consultation so that you can add this important component to your long-term plan.