Many seniors do not have elder care planning of any kind. Unfortunately, this means they are not prepared for a sudden crisis. This crisis could be a healthcare diagnosis, a car accident or a rapid decline in cognitive abilities. Most of the elder care planning you need as you age may only be completed when you have capacity. You risk losing the right to make choices you want if you have not planned for incapacity.
When you have not provided legal authority to another person, such as in your Florida durable power of attorney and Florida health care surrogate documents, there is no one who can step in and make your decisions for you should you be incapacitated. Through these estate planning tools your agent is given the legal authority to act as you would in specific instances. For example, if you were in a car accident and were unable to pay your bills each month, your agent would be able to do so. Further, if you were to suddenly need long-term care such as in the skilled nursing facility, your agent would have the authority to to hire an attorney to assist him or her with this planning.
Unfortunately, when you do not plan ahead, and create the elder care planning documents you need, no one will have this authority. In the event of a crisis where you can go longer make decisions and have not created the documents to support you, your family may need to hire an attorney to start the Florida guardianship process. In the absence of legal planning, the guardianship process exists to first determine that you are truly incapacitated and then to select the right guardian to make decisions for you for the rest of your life.
While, at first glance, this may not seem to be the worst alternative, there can be significant downsides to the guardianship process. Let us share a few considerations with you.
1. The guardianship process is expensive. Your family will need to hire an attorney to represent them and a second attorney will also be appointed by the state to represent your interests. There will be court costs, medical examiners costs, and additional costs during the initial phase of this guardianship. This will quickly add up to thousands of dollars that could have been avoided by having Florida advance directives in most situations.
2. The lack of ability to plan for long-term care. Under almost every circumstance, you will no longer be able to plan to protect your life savings from the high cost of long-term care once you are under guardianship. Instead, the planning alternatives that work under your durable power of attorney, are no longer possible. Your family will have to spend your assets and income on the skilled nursing facility you need until they are depleted.
3. Increased family conflict and stress. Unfortunately, in the absence of choosing a decision maker early, your family may fight over who should be your guardian. We have seen countless arguments between spouses, children, and loved ones who each hire attorneys to fight over who should be the decision maker for a loved one. During stressful times like this, most of our loved ones will not be thinking clearly and will be unable to make rational decisions with regard to our care. Not only does this cause long-lasting friction for your family, it also incurs more costs with each person‘s attorney’s fees.
These are just a few of the reasons why it is crucial that guardianship not be your elder care planning choice. When you plan early and well, you can avoid scenarios where you will be forced to use your entire life savings to pay for your long term care needs. Don’t wait to talk to a member of our legal planning team about the help you and and your loved ones need.