Planning for Incapacity is easily overlooked for two reasons: (1) most people associate estate planning with death; and (2) thinking about one’s own mortality is discomforting enough — thinking about the possibility of Alzheimer disease, dementia, coma or other mentally disabling condition is not something most even want to consider.
Planning for incapacity is just as important as planning for death. A great number of people have known relatives or friends suffering from one of these conditions. If you become incapacitated, who will pay your bills? Who will arrange for your care? Who will be the decisionmaker if your relatives can’t agree? Who will have authority to access and manage your assets? Who will carry out your wishes — and how will they know what your wishes are?
If you become incapacitated and have not made sufficient plans, a court proceeding may be necessary and the court will decide who will be in charge of you and your affairs. (In California, this is called a “conservatorship.”)
There are many things you can do to plan for incapacity. The most common are utilizing a trust, a power of attorney for finances, and a living will (also called an advance healthcare directive or a power of attorney for healthcare). You might also consider purchasing longterm care insurance.
Some prefer to purchase a residence at a residential and progressive care facilty. You start out in a condo or other private residence on the facility property, much like residing in a country club (usually without the golf course). The facility property often includes a dining room, community facilities and activities, and possibly other amenities, such as a chapel, pool, spa, tennis courts or exercise room. If you decline as you age, you can relocate from the private residence to an assisted living facility, enabling you to maintain as much independence as possible while still living on facility property. Should you decline further, the facility includes a skilled nursing home. This arrangement also enables a well spouse to remain on site, residing in an appropriate environment while easily visiting with the less able spouse.