Most people in Delaware are not surprised to learn that the efficiency of their bodily functions decreases as they get older. Unfortunately, this often includes the function of a person's brain. The reduction of a person's cognitive abilities may make it more difficult to do certain tasks, such as paying bills or balancing a checkbook. This is why many people may contact an elder law attorney to ensure their wishes will be followed if they should become unable to manage their own affairs.
People who plan ahead for the maintenance of their finances may save their loved ones months of court hearings and hassles. By appointing a durable power of attorney, a person has in place someone to step in and manage his or her accounts without having the courts intervene. As soon as a person is incapacitated, his or her general durable power of attorney assumes whatever powers have been appointed to him or her. This can include paying bills, making health care decisions and signing legal documents.
Another planning tool is a revocable living trust. By placing one's assets into a trust, one may save his or her heirs the hassle and expense of probate and additional taxes. The person making the trust is the trustee until he or she is unable to manage it. Then the trustee's successor takes over and administers the estate according to the wishes of the founding trustee.
Without having a durable power of attorney or a revocable living trust in place, people cannot be certain that their wishes will be followed if they die or become unable to manage their affairs. Months may pass while a judge makes decisions about a person's mental abilities, appoints a conservator for his or her estate and assigns duties to that conservator. There is no guarantee that those decisions will be the same ones the person would have made.
To avoid these complications, people in Delaware often consult an elder law attorney to get advice on how to plan for the future. Making these decisions early may prevent confusion and contention among one's beneficiaries if a person's ability to express his or her wishes become compromised. Planning ahead may be the best gift a person can give his or her loved ones.
Source: thetimesherald.com, "Wallace: Managing your 'stuff' when you can't", Matthew Wallace, July 23, 2016