A Sacramento resident must decide for himself what estate planning documents he wants to execute to ensure that his affairs will be managed to his expectations in the event of his incapacitation or death. As such, readers are asked to speak with their estate planning attorneys about their needs rather than relying on this blog post as advice. It is offered for informational purposes only.
Sooner or later many families in California will have to face the reality that aging loved ones are no longer able to manage their own financial affairs. Research has shown that an individual's ability to make financial decisions peaks at about age 53. A person's capacity to deal with new information begins to decline around age 60. For family members, it is best to be prepared for the possibility of an older relative's diminishing capacity by planning ahead, and being watchful for some key warning signs.
When an individual becomes mentally or physically incapacitated, they often have difficulty performing basic tasks like paying bills or balancing their checkbook. Older individuals may become incapacitated due to Alzheimer's disease or some other form of dementia. Even relatively young people can become incapacitated by serious illness or a disabling injury. Regardless of the reason for the incapacity, California law allows a trusted individual to step into the shoes of the incapacitated person and handle their affairs by means of a durable power of attorney.
As the baby boom generation ages, many people in California are dealing with the issue of elderly relatives who can no longer make decisions on their own behalf. When a loved one becomes incapacitated due to dementia, illness or injury, it is sometimes necessary for the court to appoint a guardian for that person.
Any person, not only seniors, may face circumstances where she cannot handle daily and legal tasks because of an unexpected accident or health condition. A power of attorney may be insurance that a trusted person can step in and handle such personal matters.
For most Californians, estate planning means making plans for the disposition of one's property after death. While this is usually the most important aspect of estate planning, it is far from the only one. Many people, especially as they get older, face the possibility of a prolonged period of mental or physical incapacity, or both. Planning for the possibility of incapacity should be a key element of any California estate plan.