Throughout history, humans have been the masterminds behind the building of 300 foot pyramids in Giza and have sent numerous astronauts into space.  Yet, human experience has taught us that even some of the most brilliant minds were prone to making mistakes and lapses in judgment as they got older.  Winston Churchill and Ralph Waldo Emerson are some of the notable examples of people who suffered from dementia and who were prone to making mistakes at an older age.

No one has the ability to stop “father time” from taking its course as we get older and affecting how we think and make day to day decisions.  In this Article, we share our suggestions for simple cost-effective ways for adequately protecting one’s property and health care decisions as one becomes older.

1)      Protecting your Property

a)      Power of Attorney  For Property

Everyone should have a Power of Attorney to protect their property in the event that they become temporarily or permanently incapacitated or disabled.  Generally speaking, a Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone (usually a family member or close friend) to make property and financial decisions for you on your behalf.  You can specify in the Power of Attorney when the rights under the Power of Attorney will begin and end (if before death), as well as control other aspects of the Power of Attorney such as how to amend it.  Normally, a Power of Attorney will specify that a doctor or a court must determine incapacity before the family member or friend can act for you.

Specifically, in Illinois, A Power of Attorney For Property allows your agent to do the following for you: (1) engage in real estate transactions, (2) perform financial transactions for you or your business, and (3) participate in litigation for you on your behalf.  The duties of the agent can be as limited or broad as desired.  In sum, a Power of Attorney will assist your family and close friends in managing your business and personal affairs if you become seriously incapacitated.  It gives you, as opposed to the court system and others, more control over your life.

b)      Joint Tenancy for Property and Bank Accounts

Titling your real estate property as a “joint tenancy with a right of survivorship” (which often consists of two or more people who jointly own the property) is a great way to ensure that your interest in the property will automatically pass to another upon death, without being tied up in any lengthy legal “probate” process.  The property will automatically pass upon death to the surviving owner(s).

Similarly, unless you have created one or more trusts with an estate planner, it is wise to have your bank account and other investment accounts be jointly owned and titled as “joint tenancy with a right of survivorship.”  This also avoids the probate process as whatever is left in an account after one’s death automatically becomes the other account holder’s personal property.  This account titling ensures that your money is going to the individual(s) you desire and it can provide a huge relief to one’s family in obtaining necessary funds to pay for funeral expenses and other costs.

2)      Protecting your Health Care: Power of Attorney For Health Care

Regrettably, some of us may have experienced difficulty in making health care decisions for a spouse or loved one in the event of an emergency when they are incapacitated.  Fortunately, like a Power of Attorney For Property, a “Power of Attorney For Health Care” is a legal document in Illinois that gives a family member or serious friend the power to make certain health care decisions for you.

A Power of Attorney For Health Care provides a trusted agent (usually a close family member or friend) with the ability to make health care decisions for you in the event of an emergency or disability.  This power to make personal health care decisions for you will be effective to the same extent as though you made the decisions yourself.  The health care powers that may be delegated to an agent include all powers that you have such as (a) the right to be informed about your health care and (b) the right to consent to, refuse, or withdraw from any type of health care.  Additionally, worth noting, even though a Power of Attorney For Property generally ends at death, a Power of Attorney For Health Care may extend beyond your death if desired so that your agent can access your medical records, request an autopsy, or address other post-death issues.  Lastly, worth noting, this power may be revoked by you at any time.

Overall, while most of us may not be of likes of a Winston Churchill or Ralph Waldo Emerson, we can at least be wise in how we plan for the future.  The examples, noted above, for how you can protect your property and health care decision making as you get older will assist not only you, but also your family and your loved ones.  For more information, please do not hesitate to contact Hurley Stanners & Matsko LLC.

THE INFORMATION CONTAINED ABOVE DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE.  IF YOU HAVE ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT ANY ISSUES CONTAINED IN THIS BLOG PLEASE EMAIL US OR CONTACT US AT (708) 848-0800.