Category: Guardian

Alternatives to Avoid Guardianship as You Age

Alternatives to Avoid Guardianship as You Age

Individuals often overlook strategies in their estate planning to avoid restrictive guardianship if they become incapacitated. While guardianship protects individuals who cannot decide or act for themselves, it can inadvertently strip them of their autonomy. There are alternatives to avoid guardianship as you age.

The restrictive nature of a court-appointed guardian acting on behalf of an impaired individual doesn’t account for that person’s wishes. In a video titled “Alternatives to Guardianship,” The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) highlights essential guardianship alternatives that preserve a person’s autonomy. This article discusses the need for protection as we age, what guardianship is and how powers of attorney (POAs) are alternative estate planning strategies that give individuals more control over decision-making.

Aging and estate planning go hand-in-hand. Estate plans with strategies that address cognitive decline and incapacity protect you from financial risks, including misuse of assets or unauthorized withdrawals. When it comes to healthcare, individuals must retain control over medical decisions. They may not be honored if you are incapacitated without legally documented healthcare wishes.

Guardianship involves the legal authority granted to a court-appointed guardian to act and make decisions for a person who is physically or mentally incapable. The guardian oversees the person’s health, medical care and property. When an individual is evaluated and deemed incapacitated, a court will assign a guardian.

A guardian’s responsibilities include making personal care decisions, overseeing living arrangements and handling their financial affairs. They are required to keep detailed records and check in with the court regularly.  However, guardianships are often appointed without considering alternatives, and they strip an individual of all decision-making authority, including where they live, what they eat and whether they will get any medical care. ACTEC notes that guardianship can be hurtful to the family, in addition to being an expensive process.

A power of attorney (POA) is a legal document that appoints someone you trust to act on your behalf. Only a durable power of attorney is valid if you are incapacitated. There are different POAs to protect your financial interests and medical wishes.

To prevent financial risks if you are incapacitated, a financial power of attorney names an agent with authority over financial matters, such as accessing bank accounts, paying bills and managing retirement accounts, real estate and investments.

A medical power of attorney is a healthcare or advance directive that allows someone else to make medical decisions based on your wishes. Often called a health care agent, this person follows your medical treatment as outlined in the document.

Key Guardianship Alternatives Takeaways:

  • Common Risks as We Age: Financial loss and unwanted medical care.
  • Typical Cons of Guardianship: Total loss of autonomy with court-appointed guardians.
  • Important Benefits of POAs: More control of your wishes and asset protection.

Elder law and estate planning strategies that protect you as you age should not be synonymous with surrendering autonomy through guardianship. Individuals can confidently navigate this terrain by exploring alternatives to avoid guardianship as you age. If you would like to learn more about guardianships, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: The American College of Trust and Estate Counsel (ACTEC) (May 13, 2021) “Alternatives to Guardianship”

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Estate Planning for Veterans and Active Military Is Important

Estate Planning for Veterans and Active Military Is Important

Your dedication to your country is unwavering as a veteran or active military service member. While you’re committed to your duty, you must protect yourself and your loved ones and preserve your legacy. Veterans and active military personnel can and should create an estate plan to match their unique needs. Based on Trust & Will’s article, “Estate Planning for Veterans & Active Military,” we look at why estate planning for veterans and active military personnel is so important.

Military life is marked by unpredictability and uncertainty for you and your family, making estate planning a vital aspect of preparing for the future. Many individuals have plans to distribute funds and appoint trusted loved ones to handle medical and financial matters if the unthinkable happens. Estate planning is essential to help provide for your loved ones if you pass away or are incapacitated. Knowing that your family will be cared for can give you peace of mind.

A will serves as a cornerstone of your estate plan, allowing you to:

  • Protect Your Family: Specify guardianship for minor children, ensuring they’re cared for by trusted individuals in your absence.
  • Distribute Assets Seamlessly: Designate beneficiaries and outline asset distribution instructions, including real estate, retirement and financial accounts, sentimental items, and other property.
  • Plan for the Unexpected: Outline your preferences for medical care and end-of-life decisions to prepare for unforeseen circumstances.

In the military, adaptability is critical, but so is ensuring your affairs are managed in your absence. Powers of Attorney enable you to:

  • Delegate Your Decisions: If you are incapacitated, designate trusted individuals to handle your legal, financial, and medical decisions.
  • Manage Your Affairs: Maintain continuity in managing assets, paying bills, and making critical decisions, even during deployments or periods of incapacity.
  • Mitigate Financial Risk: Protect against financial exploitation and past-due bills by appointing reliable agents to act in your best interests.

For military families, asset protection and efficient wealth transfer are paramount. Trusts offer a range of benefits, including:

  • Asset Preservation: Safeguard assets during incapacity or deployment, ensuring financial stability for your family.
  • Probate Avoidance: Streamline the distribution of assets to beneficiaries, bypassing the lengthy and costly probate process.
  • Tax Efficiency: Minimize estate taxes and maximize tax savings, preserving more of your hard-earned assets for future generations.

Your dedication and sacrifice are unmatched as a veteran or active military service member. That is why estate planning is so important for veterans and active military personnel. By prioritizing estate planning and including will, trust, and power of attorney strategies, you can protect your loved ones and preserve your legacy for generations. Consult with an experienced estate planning attorney for peace of mind. If you would like to learn more about planning for veterans, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Trust & Will “Estate Planning for Veterans & Active Military,”

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The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 6

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now!

The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now! It surprises some people to discover that the mortality rate in Texas and the USA and the world for that matter is 100%! None of us are getting out of here alive. How we leave this planet can sometimes be determined by how we want to.

While many people die suddenly, many others linger. And the prolonged dying process is where Hospice Austin come into play. We are privileged to have Keisha Jones, the Director of In-Patient Services at Hospice Austin share with us a “better way to die.”

While there are many for profit hospices, and an article in a recent edition of Scientific American highlighted that Hedge Funds are buying up hospices nationwide, Hospice Austin is the only non-profit one in this area. Keisha shares her unique insights into the dying process and gives hope, and we are very thankful for her allowing us to interview her.

To learn more about the incredibly valuable work that Hospice Austin does for the community, please visit their website: www.hospiceaustin.org

 

In each episode of The Estate of The Union podcast, host and lawyer Brad Wiewel will give valuable insights into the confusing world of estate planning, making an often daunting subject easier to understand. It is Estate Planning Made Simple! The Estate of The Union Season 3|Episode 4 is out now! The episode can be found on Spotify, Apple podcasts, or anywhere you get your podcasts. If you would prefer to watch the video version, please visit our YouTube page. Please click on the links to listen to or watch the new installment of The Estate of The Union podcast. We hope you enjoy it.

The Estate of The Union Season |Episode 4

 

Texas Trust Law focuses its practice exclusively in the area of wills, probate, estate planning, asset protection, and special needs planning. Brad Wiewel is Board Certified in Estate Planning and Probate Law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. We provide estate planning services, asset protection planning, business planning, and retirement exit strategies.

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Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Cognitive Decline is Overlooked in Estate Planning

Estate planning is a roadmap for transferring a person’s assets upon their death. It preserves their value and lays out the distribution of assets to the beneficiaries. One overlooked but essential aspect of estate planning is a strategy to manage and maintain an estate’s assets if the owner loses cognitive functioning and cannot make rational or mentally sound decisions. Planning for cognitive decline is often overlooked in estate planning.

A recent case highlighted by Alan Feigenbaum in J.D. Supra’s article “Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning” reminds us of the complexities and challenges that can arise when cognitive decline is not adequately addressed in estate planning.

The case involves an 80-year-old retired advertising executive, referred to as K.K., who suffered from severe delusions. Influenced by a fraudulent business associate, K.K.’s delusions led to misguided investments that resulted in a significant financial loss. Despite the clear signs of cognitive impairment, K.K. continued to engage in financial decisions that jeopardized his estate’s financial well-being.

K.K.’s son filed a petition to appoint him guardian of his father’s estate to prevent further loss. This situation underscores the need for an estate plan that includes managing the assets and protecting the estate’s value, if the individual is cognitively or mentally impaired.

  • Plan Early and Consider Cognitive Decline: Begin estate planning early and include provisions to carry out plan directives, if cognitive functioning is impaired.
  • Incorporate Safeguards: Estate plans should have safeguards, such as durable powers of attorney and trusts, which empower trusted individuals to manage your affairs if you become incapacitated.
  • Regular Reviews and Updates: Review and update your estate plan regularly to reflect changes in circumstances, including health status.
  • Professional Guidance is Key: Navigate the complexities of estate planning with an experienced estate planning attorney. An attorney will structure your estate plan to address potential cognitive decline.

K.K.’s court case underscores why cognitive decline is overlooked in estate planning. A well-rounded estate plan includes a strategy to protect and manage assets when an individual lacks the cognitive capacity to make decisions. Proactive strategies prevent financial loss and reduce the emotional turmoil when caring for a cognitively impaired loved one. Estate planning gives you the peace of mind that your wishes will be honored, even in mental decline. If you would like to learn more about planning for cognitive decline, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: JD Supra, (March 2024), Confronting Cognitive Abilities in Well-Rounded Estate Planning

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Understanding how a Guardianship and Conservatorship Contrast

Understanding how a Guardianship and Conservatorship Contrast

Guardianship and conservatorship are two legal mechanisms designed to assist individuals who cannot manage their own affairs. While they share similarities, understanding how a guardianship and conservatorship contrast is vital. Guardianship typically pertains to personal and health care decisions, while conservatorship deals with financial matters. Both require court appointment and carry significant responsibility.

Guardianship involves the legal authority granted to a guardian to make decisions on behalf of a person who is unable to do so. This typically pertains to personal, health and welfare decisions. A court appoints a guardian when an individual is deemed incapacitated, and the guardian may have to make a wide range of personal decisions for them. A guardian has significant responsibilities, including making personal care decisions, overseeing living arrangements and ensuring the overall well-being of their ward. They must keep detailed records and report to the court regularly, demonstrating that they are acting in the best interests of the ward.

In cases involving minor children, guardianship becomes essential when parents are unable to provide care. The guardian, appointed by the court, assumes responsibility for the child’s personal needs and welfare, acting in their best interests. This is often seen when parents are unable or unwilling to care for their child or in the event of the death of the parents.

Conservatorship, on the other hand, is primarily focused on financial matters. A conservator is appointed to manage the financial affairs of an individual who is unable to do so themselves, due to incapacity or other reasons. This includes managing a person’s assets, making investments and handling financial decisions. In conservatorship proceedings, the court appoints a conservator to oversee the financial needs of the incapacitated individual. The conservator must act responsibly and is often required to provide the court with periodic financial reports.

While a guardian manages personal and medical decisions, a conservator handles the financial aspects, such as personal and financial records, asset management and financial planning. This distinction is crucial in understanding the roles and responsibilities each holds.

The legal authority granted to a guardian differs from that of a conservator. A guardian makes personal and medical decisions, while a conservator focuses on financial and asset management. This division ensures that all aspects of an individual’s life are cared for adequately. Both guardians and conservators are appointed by the court and must act in the best interests of their wards. They are supervised by the court and must provide regular reports to demonstrate their compliance with legal responsibilities.

Incorporating guardianship and conservatorship into an estate plan is crucial. An estate plan can appoint a guardian or conservator in advance, providing clarity and direction in the event of incapacitation. Including a power of attorney in your estate plan can preempt the need for a court-appointed guardian or conservator. This allows you to choose who will make decisions on your behalf, if you become unable to do so.

An effective estate plan, including wills and power of attorney, can provide peace of mind and ensure that your wishes are honored. It prepares for scenarios where you might be incapacitated, ensuring that your personal and financial matters are in trusted hands. Navigating the complexities of guardianship and conservatorship can be challenging. A lawyer can help you understand how a guardianship and conservatorship contrast. The assistance of an estate planning or elder lawyer is invaluable in understanding your options, the legal process and ensuring that your loved one’s needs are met.

Each situation is unique, and a lawyer can provide tailored advice depending on your specific circumstances. They can help you navigate the legal system, ensuring the best outcome for you and your loved ones. If you would like to learn more about guardianship, please visit our previous posts. 

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Tips to protect Seniors from Guardianship Abuse

Tips to protect Seniors from Guardianship Abuse

Issues Inherent in the Guardianship System

Elder law attorneys see firsthand the complexities and potential pitfalls of guardianship arrangements. The recent investigation into guardianship practices in Florida, as reported by the Washington Post, underscores the urgent need for vigilance and reform in this area. While guardianships are designed to protect the vulnerable, they can sometimes lead to significant abuses, including forced isolation and financial exploitation. This article aims to shed light on the complexities of the guardianship system, expose issues related to guardian-inflicted elder abuse. It will also provide practical tips to protect seniors from guardianship abuse by planning before becoming incapacitated.

What Is Guardianship?

Guardianship is a legal process where a court appoints an individual (the guardian) to make decisions for someone deemed unable to make decisions for themselves (the ward). This arrangement is often necessary for seniors who can no longer manage their affairs due to health issues like dementia or stroke. It’s estimated that more than one million Americans are in a guardianship, a number that will only grow as the U.S. population ages and elderly people no longer have family living nearby to provide the care and protections they need.

A Cautionary Guardianship Case

Douglas Hulse, a former pilot from Florida, was hospitalized due to a stroke. After his recovery period ended and his condition did not improve, Orlando Health South Seminole Hospital could not discharge him without having an assigned caretaker. Therefore, the hospital petitioned the court to assign him a guardian due to the inability to locate his family. His loss of control over his assets and personal decisions to a court-appointed guardian is a stark reminder of guardianship risks. His guardian, responsible for 19 other wards, made questionable decisions like selling his home without seeking to locate his family.

What Role Do Hospitals have in Guardianship Appointments?

Hospitals often play a significant role in initiating guardianship proceedings. Cases like Hulse’s in which the hospital petitions for a court-appointed guardian are becoming more common nationwide, especially when elderly patients have no known family or friends to care for them. While this process is meant to ensure the patient’s well-being, it can inadvertently lead to the appointment of guardians who may not act in the best interest of the ward or, worse, will exploit the senior ward through financial abuse or other ways.

Why Is the Adult Guardianship System Allowing Abuse and Exploitation of Wards?

The discrepancies in the guardianship appointment and training process further complicate this issue. There is often a lack of standardized procedures for appointing and monitoring guardians, leading to inconsistent practices and an increased risk of abuse. This situation calls for a more rigorous and standardized approach to guardianship appointments at the state level, ensuring that only qualified and ethical individuals are entrusted with such significant responsibilities.

How Do Guardianships Put Seniors at Risk of Abuse?

The Hulse case highlights several risks associated with guardianship:

  1. Loss of Personal Freedom and Fundamental Rights: Once under guardianship, individuals may lose basic rights, such as voting, consenting to medical treatment, managing their finances, or deciding where to live.
  2. Financial Exploitation: Guardians have significant control over the ward’s assets, allowing them to access financial accounts directly and conduct financial transactions without oversight. This access can lead to mismanagement or outright theft.
  3. Lack of Oversight: Guardianships often lack sufficient legal or administrative oversight, allowing unscrupulous guardians to take advantage of their wards. Because a judge appoints guardians, they often do not face punishment or legal recourse for abusive behavior.

How to Protect Yourself From Court-Ordered Guardianship

  1. Advance Planning: The best defense against guardianship abuse is advance planning. This includes setting up durable powers of attorney for health care and finances, which allow you to designate someone you trust to make decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
  2. Regular Monitoring: If guardianship is unavoidable, family members should stay involved and monitor the guardian’s actions. Regularly reviewing financial statements and staying in close contact with the ward can help detect any irregularities.
  3. Choosing the Right Guardian: If a guardian is necessary, choose someone trustworthy and capable. This could be a family member or a professional with a good reputation and credentials.
  4. Legal Oversight: Courts should have robust systems to monitor guardianships. This includes regular reporting by guardians and audits of their financial management.
  5. Awareness and Education: Seniors and their families should be educated about the risks of guardianship and the importance of advance planning. Community programs and legal clinics can provide valuable information and resources.
  6. Advocacy and Reform: Advocacy for better laws and policies around guardianship is crucial. This includes pushing for reforms that increase transparency, accountability and oversight in the guardianship process.

Key Takeaways:

  • Guardianship can lead to significant abuses, including loss of autonomy and financial exploitation.
  • Hospitals often initiate guardianship proceedings for incapacitated patients without family, which can lead to inappropriate guardian appointments.
  • Advance planning, such as establishing durable powers of attorney, helps prevent guardianship abuses.
  • There is a need for increased legal oversight and reform in the guardianship system to protect the rights and well-being of the elderly.

Utilize these tips to protect the seniors you love from guardianship abuse. Work with an experienced elder law or estate planning attorney to ensure that someone you love does not fall prey to abuse but has a legally documented estate plan to protect them and their financial well-being. If you would like to learn more about guardianship issues, please visit our previous posts. 

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Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

Selling the Family Home when a Loved One needs Nursing Care

When an aging relative decides the time is right to move into an assisted living or continuing care facility, families face many decisions. This is often a difficult but necessary step for older individuals with trouble living independently or planning for their future needs. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care can be a challenge. A recent article from Herald—Standard, “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility,” offers suggestions to help families navigate the process.

First, speak with an estate planning attorney to have a trusted, responsible family member be named Power of Attorney. Individuals moving into assisted living may not have any cognitive problems at the time of the move. However, selling a home for a family member who develops dementia can present complex challenges. Only a person with legal capacity may transfer their home to a new owner. Having a Power of Attorney allows a family member to step in and manage the transaction without needing to go to court and have a guardian named.

Talk about the situation and the sale with the aging family member. They will need time to process the idea of selling their home and moving. Homeowners make untold sacrifices and compromises to buy and maintain their homes, so the decision to sell a beloved home is almost always very difficult and brings out a range of emotions.

Throughout this process, an open and honest dialogue about what can be achieved by selling the home and improving their quality of life will be helpful.

Sorting through belongings is an extremely hard task. A lifetime of memories and a loss of their independence are all wrapped up in the contents of a home. It will be impossible to take the entire contents into a one or two-bedroom apartment. Take the time to sort through belongings with your family members and select certain items to give them a sense of home in a smaller space.

If possible, try to pass on some items to younger family members. Most importantly, handle this process with as much compassion as possible.

Keep all relevant people involved and current throughout the process. This is particularly important if the family members are scattered in different states. Adult children who live far away and can’t be active participants in this process shouldn’t be dismissed and left out. Open communication with other family members will minimize the chances of objections when the sale and move take place.

Finally, because this is perhaps the largest and last financial transaction, make sure the sale of their home is done with an eye to their estate plan. Selling the family home when a loved one needs nursing care may cause tax issues. There may be ways to minimize tax exposure for the individual and their estate plan. Confer with an estate planning attorney to avoid any missteps. If you would like to learn more about managing property in your estate plan, please visit our previous posts.

Reference: Herald-Standard (Oct. 27, 2023) “How to handle selling a home when moving into an assisted living facility”

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The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

The Difference Between Guardianship and Power of Attorney

Navigating the intricate landscape of elder law can be daunting, especially when faced with the decision between guardianship and power of attorney for elderly parents. This article sheds light on the difference between guardianship and power of attorney, providing clarity on which approach might be the best fit for your family’s unique situation.

What Exactly Is a Power of Attorney?

A power of attorney is a legal document that empowers an individual, often referred to as the “agent” or “attorney-in-fact,” to act on behalf of another, known as the “principal”. This authority can span a myriad of areas, from handling financial matters to making pivotal medical decisions.

  • Deciphering the Power of Attorney Document: The power of attorney document delineates the extent of the agent’s authority. For instance, a medical power of attorney focuses on health care decisions, while a financial power of attorney pertains to managing financial assets, like bank accounts.
  • The Significance of Durable Power of Attorney: This variant of power of attorney remains valid even if the principal becomes incapacitated due to conditions like dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. It’s imperative that this durable power of attorney must be prepared with precision, ensuring the agent’s ability to act remains unaffected by the principal’s mental state.

Guardianship: An Overview

Guardianship establishes a legal relationship where a guardian is court-appointed to make decisions for someone unable to do so themselves.

  • Guardianship Proceedings: Initiating guardianship requires one to file a petition in the probate court. If the court ascertains that the individual is no longer able to care for themselves or their assets, it may appoint a guardian.
  • Differentiating Guardian of a Person from Guardian of an Estate: While the former is tasked with personal and medical decisions, the latter oversees financial matters. The guardian’s responsibilities, whether it’s a duty to provide care or manage financial assets, hinge on the terms of the guardianship.

Power of Attorney or Guardianship: Which Path to Choose?

The choice between power of attorney and guardianship is contingent on the specific needs of the elderly individual.

  • Comparing Decision-Making Power: Both the agent (under power of attorney) and the guardian have a shared duty to provide for the best interest of the individual. However, a guardian typically possesses a more expansive level of decision-making power.
  • Flexibility and Autonomy: With a power of attorney, the principal gets to choose the person who will act on their behalf. In contrast, in a guardianship proceeding, the court has the final say, which might not always resonate with the individual’s preferences.

When Is Guardianship the Answer?

Guardianship becomes indispensable when an elderly parent is incapacitated and lacks a power of attorney.

  • The Process of Seeking Guardianship: If there’s a belief that an elderly parent is vulnerable, it becomes imperative to file a petition for guardianship. Consulting an elder law attorney can streamline the guardianship proceeding.
  • Guardianship vs Power of Attorney Post-Incapacitation: In the absence of a durable power of attorney, guardianship emerges as the sole recourse if an individual becomes incapacitated.

Can Power of Attorney and Guardianship Coexist?

Indeed, it’s possible to have both mechanisms in place, although their interplay can be intricate.

  • Roles and Boundaries: An adult child might be designated as the agent for financial matters under a power of attorney, while a professional guardian could be entrusted with medical decisions.
  • Harmonious Operation: Both the agent and guardian must act in the best interest of the individual, ensuring their comprehensive well-being.

Making the Right Choice for Your Family

Deciding between power of attorney and guardianship demands careful contemplation.

  • Engage with an Elder Law Attorney: Their expertise can offer tailored guidance, helping you traverse the complexities of elder law.
  • Factor in the Elderly Parent’s Desires: Their voice is paramount in the decision-making matrix, ensuring that their autonomy and dignity are preserved.

Key Takeaways:

  • Power of Attorney is a legal instrument allowing individuals to designate someone to act on their behalf.
  • Guardianship is a court-sanctioned role for those incapacitated and unable to make decisions autonomously.
  • The distinction between the two hinges on the individual’s circumstances and the extent of decision-making power required.
  • Both mechanisms can coexist, though their roles might differ.
  • Engaging with an elder law attorney is pivotal to making an informed decision tailored to your family’s needs.

Work closely with your estate planning attorney to ensure you understand the difference between power of attorney and guardianship. If you would like to learn more about guardianship, please visit our previous posts.  

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RLT can Help with Planning for Incapacity

RLT can Help with Planning for Incapacity

Planning for potential disability and mental incapacity is part of a comprehensive estate plan. Women, in particular, are at a higher risk of becoming disabled, with 44% of women 65 and older having a disability. Most people understand the value of an estate plan. Nevertheless, few know how to that a Revocable Living Trust, or RLT, can help with planning for incapacity, as explained in the article “Incapacity Planning: The Hidden Power Of A Revocable Trust” from Financial Advisor.

Revocable Living Trusts are highly effective tools to protect assets against failing capacity. Although everyone should have both, they can be more powerful and efficient than a financial Power of Attorney. An RLT offers the freedom and flexibility to manage your assets while you can and provides a safety net if you lose capacity by naming a co-trustee who can immediately and easily step in and manage the assets.

Cognitive decline manifests in various ways. Incapacity is not always readily determined, so the trust must include a strong provision detailing when the co-trustee is empowered to take over. It’s common to require a medical professional to determine incapacity. However, what happens if a person suffering cognitive decline resists seeing a doctor, especially if they feel their autonomy is at risk?

Do you need an RLT if you already have a financial Power of Attorney? Yes, for several reasons.

You can express your intentions regarding the management and use of trust assets through the trust. A POA typically authorizes the agent to act on your behalf without specific direction or guidance. A POA authorizes someone to act on your behalf with financial transactions, such as selling a home, representing you and signing documents. The co-trustee is the only one with access to assets owned by the trust, while the POA can manage assets outside of the trust. Having both the POA and RLT is the best option.

Trustees are often viewed as more credible than a POA because RLTs are created with attorney involvement. POAs are often involved in lawsuits for fraud and elder abuse.

Suppose there is an instance of fraud or identity theft. In that case, RLTs provide another layer of protection, since the trust has its own taxpayer ID independent of your taxpayer ID and Social Security number.

Your co-trustee can be the same person as your POA.

Adding a trusted family member as a joint owner to accounts and property provides some protection without the expense of creating a trust. However, it does not create a fiduciary obligation, enforceable by law, for the joint owner to act in the original owner’s best interest. Only POAs or trustees are bound by this requirement.

Once a POA is in place, it is wise to share it with all institutions holding accounts. Most of them require a review and approval process before accepting a POA. Don’t wait until it’s needed, when it will be too late because of incapacity, to have a new one created.

If you know that planning for incapacity is in your family’s future, consider how an RLT can help. Talk with your estate planning attorney about planning to create an RLT and POA to ensure that your assets will be protected in case of incapacity. If you would like to learn more about incapacity planning, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Financial Advisor (Oct. 18, 2023) “Incapacity Planning: The Hidden Power Of A Revocable Trust”

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You Need Two Kinds of Power of Attorney Documents

You Need Two Kinds of Power of Attorney Documents

Wills and trusts are used to establish directions about what should happen to your property upon death and who you want to carry out those directions, explains an article from Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press, “Power of attorney documents come in two main varieties—do you have both?” However, the estate planning documents addressing what you want while you are still living but have become incapacitated are just as important. To some people, they are more important than wills and trusts. You need two kinds of Power of Attorney documents to have all of your bases covered.

A comprehensive estate plan should address both life and death, including incapacity. This is done through Power of Attorney documents. One is for health care, and the other is for financial and legal purposes.

A Power of Attorney document is used to name a decision maker, often called your “Agent” or “Attorney in Fact,” if you cannot make your own decisions while living. You can use the POA document to state the scope and limits the agent will have in making decisions for you. A custom-made POA allows you to get as specific as you wish—for instance, authorizing your agent to pay bills and maintain your home but not to sell it.

The financial POA document gives the chosen agent the legal authority to make financial decisions on your behalf. In contrast, a Health Care Power of Attorney document gives your agent the legal authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf.

By having both types of POA in place, a person you choose can make decisions on your behalf.

Suppose you become incapacitated and don’t have either Power of Attorney documents. In that case, someone (typically a spouse, adult child, or another family member) will need to apply through the court system to become a court-appointed “guardian” and “conservator” to obtain the authority the Power of Attorney documents would have given to them.

This can become a time-consuming, expensive and stressful process. The court might decide the person applying for these roles is not a good candidate, and instead of a family member, name a complete stranger to either of these roles.

The guardianship/conservator court process is far less private than simply having an experienced estate planning attorney prepare these documents. While the records of the legal proceedings and the actual courtroom hearings are often sealed in a guardianship/conservatorship court process, there is still a lot of personal information about your life, health and finances shared with multiple attorneys, the judge, a social worker and any other “interested parties” the court decides should be involved with the process.

For peace of mind, have an experienced estate planning attorney explain why you need two kinds of power of attorney documents. Preparing these documents when creating or updating your estate plan is a far better way to plan for incapacity. If you would like to learn more about powers of attorney, please visit our previous posts. 

Reference: Coeur d’Alene/Post Falls Press (Oct. 11, 2023) “Power of attorney documents come in two main varieties—do you have both?”

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Information in our blogs is very general in nature and should not be acted upon without first consulting with an attorney. Please feel free to contact Texas Trust Law to schedule a complimentary consultation.
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