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Are you prepared for the possibility of incapacity?

In the past few decades, medical technology has advanced to the point where people are living longer. At the same time, a whole generation of people is now reaching or is in their retirement years. The demand for long-term care services is increasing dramatically because of the intersection of these two factors. In accordance with the rules of economics, when the demand goes up, so does the price.

Long-term care is in higher demand partly because as people live longer, they still suffer from ailments, both chronic and acute, that limit their ability to care for themselves. Perhaps you are part of this generation and you fear you may become one of those people. If so, then you may want to prepare for incapacity as soon as possible.

You could benefit from a trust

Trusts are not only for passing on your assets to loved ones without going through probate. The right trust can also provide for you when you can no longer make decisions for yourself. If you create a living trust, you may serve as its trustee as long as you can. When you are no longer able, the successor trustee you chose can step in and much can continue as it did without interruption.

Your bills get paid, your assets are protected and your needs are provided for through the trust. In addition, if it is set up properly, you may still receive Medicaid benefits to help pay for your care. The trust could also provide for your spouse, if he or she still lives at the time you require long-term care. Upon your death, the assets in the trust are distributed in accordance with your wishes as outlined in the document.

You could benefit from a medical power of attorney

When it comes to the life-saving and end-of-life medical intervention, you may reach a point where you won't be able to express your wishes. If you create a medical power of attorney (also called a living will or advanced health care directive), you appoint someone to express those wishes on your behalf if you are unable.

You can require a doctor to certify your incapacity before the individual you appoint as your agent can take over making your medical decisions. Hopefully, you choose someone who understands what you want and will carry out your wishes.

You could benefit from a durable power of attorney

This document gives someone you trust the right to take over your finances. This may include as much or as little power as you desire. As is the case with a medical power of attorney, you could require certification of your incapacity. In fact, unless you make that request, your agent may technically have the power to make decisions for you as soon as you sign the document.

That makes some Illinois residents nervous, which is why they require a doctor's certification first. If you have a trust, you may want to make sure that no conflicts arise between these documents. You may need other documents as well in order to ensure that you receive the care you deserve and desire should you become incapacitated.

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Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law