Let’s expose the elephant in the [virtual] room right from the beginning. Brace yourself! We all age every year, and the older we get, questions regarding aging, managing affairs, long-term care, and the care of our families become much more relevant. Those questions often sound like, “Who will make decisions for me if I can no longer make decisions for myself? Who can I trust to guide me properly when I need guidance? Will my assets be arranged so that I will be fully supported on a long-term basis?” While these questions are sometimes hard to discuss, it is best to answer them right now while you are able. It is important to implement a plan and system that ensures your ability to live your life on your terms, even during challenging times. A necessary component of that plan includes your “Team of 3”. These are the three people (or groups of people) that you can trust to help you carry out your wishes, protect you and your assets, and properly support you, allowing you to enjoy your life. Your “Team of 3” should consist of the following:
Someone who loves you, really!
This person is the most important person in your “Team of 3.” In every stage of life we all need to know that someone truly cares for us and will support us in all situations. This person will be by your side through “thick and thin.” This person will make sacrifices for your benefit. He or she wants what is best for you, and will fight to make sure you get it. They love you. This person’s importance will really manifest if incapacity surfaces. Incapacity has been defined as the physical or mental inability to do something or to manage one’s affairs. Whether you find yourself in a minor or severe stage of incapacity, it will be important to have by your side someone who knows you well, loves you, and whose presence and activity show a firm commitment to your well-being. Most likely the first person (or people) who came to mind as you read that last sentence is the first, and most important person of your Team of 3. It is important for you to communicate to them your wishes and interests regarding long-term care, and other matters of significance, even if they are uncomfortable having that conversation. They will understand, and will also carry it out as you communicated it, because they love you.
Power of Attorney Fidicuiaries – Healthcare/Financial
The next person of your “Team of 3” is your patient advocate and your attorney-in-fact (note: this person does not have to be an attorney). These are individuals that you appoint to be your representatives while you are alive but in need of assistance with healthcare decisions and financial matters. This can be the same person as the individual who loves you, as identified in #1 above. Through your Healthcare Power of Attorney (Properly termed: Patient
Advocate Designation), you are authorizing this person to talk to doctors on your behalf and make medical decisions for you, oftentimes with instructions that you have left in writing. You are also authorizing medical providers to release your protected health information to this person. It is very important that your chosen individual is someone that you trust to make sound decisions, as such decisions include matters of life and death. With your Financial Power of Attorney (aka Generable Durable Power of Attorney), you are authorizing someone to handle financial matters on your behalf. Since this person will have full access to your assets, be sure to only appoint someone that you trust to handle those assets in your best interest. Also, keep in mind that in the absence of properly-drafted Healthcare and Financial Powers of Attorney, trusted individuals could only receive the authority to provide such support to you through Probate Court proceedings in your county. These proceedings are more costly, open to the public, and at the mercy of the court’s choosing of your fiduciary, based upon state laws. Executing properly-drafted powers of attorney maintains your privacy, saves you money, and allows you to choose who acts on your behalf.
Professional Watchdog: Lawyer – Plus
The final person of your “Team of 3” is the “Professional Watchdog,” better known as your Estate Planning Attorney. Prior to incapacity, it is very important that you establish a properly drafted plan, based on your interests and the laws of your state. In order to do so, it important that you rely upon the services of an attorney that specializes in estate planning. This attorney will be able to help you identify areas of financial, long-term care and family concerns, and will then be able to create a written legal plan that resolves those concerns, based upon your wishes. This plan will include powers of attorney (discussed above), along with additional documents that include the handling of your assets and children upon your death. In addition to drafting those documents, as you establish trust with this attorney, you, and the individuals identified in paragraphs one and two above, will have an advisor that can stand by your side throughout the different stages of incapacity, providing legal guidance, protection from predators, and connections to additional governmental and community resources. This trusted advisor will keep confusion low and support high. In many cases it is also important to establish a relationship with a financial advisor that can provide additional support in the management and protection of your money and other assets, while working alongside your attorney to ensure proper funding for your care.
Your “Team of 3” will alleviate confusion and chaos by providing the support that you need as challenges arise. Don’t waste any more time. Install your “Team of 3” today!