Independence and Estate Planning

My favorite day in July is, of course, the 4th of July. Independence day is a day to be thankful for our freedoms, and if we’re fortunate, spend time with family and friends.

But personal independence, the ability to stay in charge of our own lives, is something we should aim for all year long and is the subject of this month’s post. In my experience as an estate planning attorney, I’ve observed that when our health fails us, maintaining independence depends on several items.

Strong Financial Planning and the Cultivation of Relationships

When we need help, whether it’s a trip to the doctor or a prescription picked up at the store, we will need either the financial ability to hire someone to assist us or friends or family who are willing to lend a hand. For those who still have time to save and invest, a good financial advisor can help you become retirement ready.

When it comes to relationships, whether blood relative, neighbor or friend, focus on the dependable, kind people in your sphere and build mutually beneficial relationships. Senior centers, retirement communities, religious communities, and interest based social groups (think book clubs or hiking groups), are great places to seek out a social network.

Designate People Who Will Help Support You

When you put your estate plan together, you will need to decide who will handle your medical decision making if you can’t for yourself (agent under your health care power of attorney) and who will handle your financial affairs (agent under your financial power of attorney). A supportive agent under your health care power of attorney will ensure that you are in the driver’s seat of your own health care decisions. She will attend doctor’s appointments or other important health care meetings and help be an extra set of ears. She will be an advocate when needed.

When you need assistance to manage your financial affairs, a supportive agent under your financial power of attorney will keep you in the loop on all decision making and share all statements. Remember, a financial power of attorney and health care power of attorney do not take away your own authority over your health and financial affairs. Rather, in the case of health care, it provides who will make decisions if you can’t yourself. In the case of the financial power of attorney, it allows someone to assist you.

With good agent appointments under these documents, in the majority of circumstances, you will never need to be under court ordered guardianship, but rather will maintain your independence with support as long as you are able. An experienced estate planning attorney can help you put a plan together to secure your independence as long as possible.

Owner and Attorney at The Perla Law Firm, LLC

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