Recently, an acquaintance was telling me how her mother, a very intelligent professional woman about eighty years old, deteriorated from highly functional semi-retirement from her profession, to requiring hospitalization, rapidly followed by institutionalization.
All in the course of about six weeks. Six weeks.
She had lost all capacity to remember anything, in the virtual blink of an eye. Severe dementia. She could not even remember to eat or drink enough to sustain herself.
This woman and her husband had run several successful businesses and had amassed significant wealth.
Leaving her family not only reeling in shock, but also scrambling to try to sort out her affairs.
Hot on the heels of hearing about this, a prospective client consulted me in regard to her elderly parents.
For some years, they had wanted to create powers of attorney, both for help in managing their financial affairs and for health care decisionmaking purposes if they became unable to do so for themselves. They had also wanted to re-title some of their properties, to avoid delays in transfer in probate(s).
But, somehow, they just never quite got around to taking care of these things. They could always do it tomorrow …
Now, the father has Alzheimer’s and the mother has difficulty getting around.
In both families, the impaired family members now require caregivers.
These impaired family members cannot manage their own affairs. They can no longer execute legal documents, be it a will, a trust, a deed or a power of attorney.
Sooner or later (probably sooner), it will very likely be necessary for their spouse or a child to file for guardianship of them. So that a loved one will have the legal authority to make decisions and pay for their care as they would want, and to ensure that their affairs are handled as they would want.
Unfortunately, guardianship is a potentially complex, slow and expensive court proceeding.
The sad thing is that in both families, all of the family members’ objectives could have been accomplished without the need for a guardianship proceeding … if these parents had just taken a little bit of time and spent a little bit of money to execute a few important but relatively simply legal documents … before the parent deteriorated mentally.
All of the parents could have had peace of mind, and their children could have had peace of mind. Their spouse or children could have been authorized in advance to smoothly step in to do whatever needed to be done or decided – and they would have had access to the resources necessary to implement these things.
Without the delay, expense and added stress of having to scramble to consult and retain lawyers to file guardianship under such difficult circumstances.
Age, disease, even injury can all cause severe infirmities that can interfere with a person’s ability to manage their own affairs and provide for one’s own care. In some cases, the infirmity can strike in an instant. At any age.
If the impaired person has minor children, the stakes are even higher.
Who will care for their children? Who will be able to manage any property intended for them.
This is every bit as important as having life insurance or a will. Some would say more important.
As in the case of the two families discussed above, people just like you and your family, nothing good will come of procrastinating. Don’t get stuck as they did.
Contact your family law attorney or estate planning attorney immediately … and give yourself and your family the priceless gift of peace of mind.