Planning for Incompetence

Old Guy

Sometimes elderly people are afflicted with diseases or conditions that will ultimately render them mentally incompetent. Once these individuals become incompetent, they will be unable to make their own decision, remember who they are, won’t necessarily be aware of their present circumstances, and might be at risk for wandering or eloping from the nursing care facility at which they reside. However, in some instances, the onset of the disease or condition is slow, giving the afflicted person time to coordinate and plan with his or her family a course of action to adhere to while dealing with the gradual onset of the incompetence.

It is prudent to utilize this time to set the elder person’s legal affairs in order so that when the disease or condition takes it toll, and the person will no longer be able to make decisions on his or her own, there won’t be any unanswered legal questions and the rest of their life can play out smoothly. Taking these steps can also help prevent some abuses from happening to the incompetent individual. For example, having legal matters squared away keeps those who would try and abuse the incompetent person’s situation from doing so.

Establishing a Power of Attorney

It is important to establish a power of attorney in an individual you trust. This person will be given the power to make decisions regarding your financial and administrative matter and also is granted signatory authority on your behalf. When this person is given their power is up to you. You can grant them the authority at the time of signing a Power of Attorney document or you can make it effective at a later date, for example, whenever your gradual onset incompetence becomes too severe for you to manage your own life.

Establishing a Health Care Proxy

By choosing a health care proxy, or guardian, you are designating a person to make any and all health care-related decisions for you once you are no longer able to make those decisions yourself. A health care proxy allows you the ability to hand-select someone you trust for the position. The proxy is limited to only being able to make decisions related to your medical care. If you do not designate a health care proxy, the court will have to decide for you. You should also put into place any advanced directives that you may want adhered to during your end-of-life care and make sure that your health care proxy is aware of your advanced directives.

Estate Planning and Finalizing a Will

If you have the time and assets to distribute, you should take some time to plan out how your estate will pass to your survivors once you are gone. By making these decisions now while you are still lucid, you can figure out what assets will go to which loved ones and leave no unanswered questions for your family to figure out later. You should be the one to determine how your estate will be distributed, and planning it out well in advance gives you the power to do so. You can record your wishes in a will. Since your will is a legal document, which you must prepare while you are of sound mind, your family cannot dispute it.

If you have a loved one that is mentally incompetent and has wandered away from the nursing home where he or she resides, it is likely a sign of negligence on the part of his or her caregivers. Please feel free to contact the experienced attorneys at Rooth Law Firm either online or by telephone today by calling (800) 598-4348.

Photo Credit: Neil. Moralee via Compfight cc

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