You’ve heard the terms, but what exactly do they do?
In the entertaining and poignant illustrated memoir “Can’t We Talk About Something More PLEASANT?,” author Roz Chast recounts her story of an only child dealing with the aging of her parents.
Her father was obsessed with finding the “bankbooks,” sure that bandits were poised to drain the couple’s bank accounts. Her mother said she didn’t want to become “a pulsating piece of protoplasm.”
To be generous, their ideas about health care and the state of their assets were in disarray. The parents knew what they wanted and didn’t want, but they were 93 before they put an estate plan in place to formalize their medical care instructions and protect their financial assets.
Whether you are 18, 93, or sandwiched between generations of your children and your parents, through essential legal documents you can appoint an agent to handle your financial affairs when you are not able to do so, and you can put in place a plan to provide for the needs of yourself and your dependents during a period of incapacity.
With a Power of Attorney, you name an agent who will make your business and financial decisions when you are unable to.
Along with this, you can set up a Living Trust that gives instructions on how you want your agent to handle your assets. You are the Trustee unless you become incapacitated, and then your alternate Trustee takes over and is bound by law to follow your instructions. Without this, the court may appoint a Conservator over your financial interests. More about court appointments below.
Through a Georgia Advance Directive for Health Care (formerly referred to as a Living Will) you can appoint an agent to make your health care decisions and state your wishes about end-of-life procedures should you become incapacitated. Without this directive in place, the people in your life could be required to petition the court to be appointed your Guardian.
A court hearing can be time-consuming, expensive, and is always public. Your appointed Conservator or Guardian may not have any idea about your choices and may be confronted by disagreeing family members, leading to additional court hearings. Meanwhile, your interests have been put on hold.
Roz Chast says she told her story to help others. If you have delayed making a plan, know that you are not alone and there is help readily available to get you through it. Then you can have peace of mind and talk about something more pleasant.