Why Do We Need Advanced Directives?
Introducing Life Planning Documents.
In 2006, Holly Deni’s 99-year-old aunt was found unconscious in her Manhattan apartment. Deni, currently director of the ElderLife Division at Locker Financial Services, was faced with the difficult and traumatizing situation of caring for her incapacitated aunt, a former Manhattan socialite.
Although Deni’s aunt, who suffered severe, irreversible cognitive decline, had a will in place, she had never set up several of the essential advance directives. This rendered it impossible for family members to manage both her medical situation and estate. Ultimately, after 6 months and over $15,000 in attorney’s and court fees, Deni became her aunt’s legal guardian.
This scenario is sadly quite common – all too frequently we hear of elderly and incapacitated individuals who are appointed guardians by the State to make their decisions.
What are Advance Directives?
Due to advances in medical technology, both quality and length of life have increased. As of 2016, Americans, on average, have a life expectancy 9 years greater than that of 1966. Along with these increased life expectancies, we have seen a spike in the population of those suffering from mental disabilities, including irreversible cognitive impairments associated with ageing. However, through proper planning and establishing advance directives, you and your loved ones can avoid traumatizing and costly judicial intervention.
Most of us are familiar with the concept of Estate Planning. Similarly, we’ve all been told we need to have a Last Will & Testament, a Trust, and life insurance to provide for our loved ones after our passing. These documents help us prepare for death, but not for carrying out our lives. On the other hand, the following advance directives, or life planning documents, are designed to protect you and your property during your lifetime.
Four Essential Life Planning Documents:
Power of Attorney.
Through a Power of Attorney, you can delegate authority for someone to act on your behalf. Powers of Attorney come in several different types, varying in scope. The principal, or maker, of the Power of Attorney grants an agent the right to conduct transactions and act on his or her behalf.
A Living Will is any witnessed written document or oral statement specifying a person’s wishes regarding the termination of medical procedures when he or she has been diagnosed with a terminal condition, has an end-stage condition, or is in a persistent vegetative state.
Health Care Surrogate.
A Health Care Surrogate is a competent adult who is expressly designated to make health care decisions on behalf of another person who is incapacitated and no longer able to make decisions. A designation of Health Care Surrogate may be effective immediately or after a person has been deemed incapacitated, typically determined by the attending physician.
Declaration of Pre-need Guardian.
In certain circumstances, the imposition of a guardianship is preferred or unavoidable. As per Florida law, competent individuals can make a written declaration designating a guardian to serve in the event he or she becomes incapacitated. This designated pre-need guardian will hold preference in appointment as guardian, if guardianship proceedings are initiated.
With the exception of the declaration of pre-need guardian, the life planning documents above offer less restrictive alternatives to guardianship. A guardianship may revoke some or all of an individual’s Civil Rights; it is viewed as a last resort, and often arises as a result of failure to engage in life planning. Thus, to avoid judicial intervention, it is important to complete advance directives, which will ensure that your wishes are met regarding financial, health care, and end of life matters.
If you have any questions regarding Advance Directives and Life Planning, please call O’Brien & Bennett at 941-316-9200 to speak to us today.