It’s the stuff movies are made about—the ongoing plight of Britney Spears and how she lost control of her finances, her business affairs, and most aspects of her personal life.
How did it happen? It began in 2007 after the birth of her two sons and her divorce from Kevin Federline. Britney melted down, very publicly. She was put on an involuntary mental health hold. She lost custody of her kids. Because she seemed to be spiraling out of control, her father, Jamie Spears, filed a conservatorship petition in Los Angeles County Superior Court. The court agreed that something should be done and Spears was appointed co-conservator along with an attorney Mr. Spears selected, and Britney Spears lost control of almost every part of her life.
But don’t think it only happens to the rich and famous. It can happen to you, too. If you become disabled because of an accident or illness, or if you’re not mentally competent to take care of yourself because of old age, dementia, or Alzheimer’s, a conservatorship petition can be filed and, if the court agrees that you can’t take care of yourself, someone else will control your life.
Americans under the age of 60 are four to five times more likely to become disabled for a period of one year or longer due to accident or illness than death. Modern medicine can often prevent death, but not cure the illness or condition causing the disability.
Americans over the age of 60 have a 70% chance of becoming disabled or unable to take care of themselves for a period of at least two years or longer.
So, how do you make sure you’re taken care of the way you want to be if you can’t act on your own behalf? Plan ahead. That means having the right legal documents in place and choosing the team to execute those documents.
Durable Power of Attorney
The Durable Power of Attorney allows a person you choose to handle your financial affairs if you can’t. The document should have a simple process for your POA to get statements from two examining doctors stating that you are not able to act on your own behalf. The document should also have a “come back in” provision so, if you can handle your affairs again in the future, you get reinstated immediately without the necessity of going to court.
Personal Care Power of Attorney
The Personal Care POA covers things that are not financial or medical. It works in conjunction with the Durable Power of Attorney and an Advance Health Care Directive. The person you choose to be your Personal Care Power of Attorney can make decisions such as changing your state of residence, providing for transportation, caring for pets, hiring in-home health care providers, arranging for your religious or spiritual needs and having access to your mail.
HIPPA and Advance Health Care Directive
The Advance Health Care Directive, also known as a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care or a Health Care Proxy, authorizes a person of your choosing to make health related decisions for you if you are unable. The HIPPA Authorization provides access to your private medical information so proper health care decisions can be made for you.
A Living Trust may be appropriate if you own property in multiple states, have a sizable net worth, or wish to avoid probate. You can be the trustee of the trust for as long as you want to or are capable.
If you want to avoid some income or estate taxes, costs for long-term care or to better protect your assets from the spend-down required for assistance with long-term care costs, then you might consider an Irrevocable Trust.
Planning ahead will take some time. You want to make sure the people you choose to represent you if you can’t handle your own affairs are people you trust and people who can work together for your best interest and care. They may be family members, but sometimes that’s not the best solution. In some instances, it may be better to name non-family members or a bank or trust company that can act on your behalf without emotion.
Whatever your decision, take care of it now. Mom used to say, “Don’t put off until tomorrow what you can do today.” Mom was a pretty smart lady. Listen to her.
This article is presented as information only and is in no way to be considered as tax or legal advice.