Are you aware that you could become mentally disabled at any time during life? If you do become disabled without a proper plan in place, a judge will create a guardianship. A occurs when a court of law decides you are mentally incapacitated and names a person to make legal decisions for you.
Disadvantages of a Guardianship
If a court of law appoints someone to make court-supervised decisions for you, you will have no say in which person that may be. What if the person chosen is not someone you would wish to control your assets and medical care? Your guardian will most likely be a family member, but wouldnt it be nice if you had a say in the decision and could choose the loved one you feel would do the best job?
Three Legal Documents to Use
The best way to avoid a guardianship is to have a disability plan in place to cover your medical and financial needs. An Advanced Medical Directive or Medical Power of Attorney allow you to name a person that you feel can make sound medical decisions for you.
A Durable Financial Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to plan for your financial needs. You can use this document even when you are not incapacitated. For example, a durable power of attorney may be used by your spouse to sign on your behalf anytime you are unavailable. If you wish to retain full control of your financial decisions, you can use a springing power of attorney instead. This type of POA will only allow your chosen financial agent to act if you become mentally disabled.
Another popular disability planning document is a Revocable Living Trust, which is also used for estate planning. With a Trust, you retain full control of your belongings while you are healthy and of sound mind. When you create your Trust agreement, you will name a successor trustee to take over if you become mentally disabled or die. While you are disabled, your successor trustee will manage your assets. When you die he or she will use your Trust to settle your estate. If you choose to use a Trust for disability planning, check with your attorney to ensure that it contains the proper wording to allow for a medical agent to step in if needed.
Alan L. Augulis is a leading provider of expert estate planning guidance in Warren, NJ. For more information on guardianship and other estate planning services, visit our website.