Estate planning isn’t just about detailing who will inherit your assets when you’re gone. A big part of estate planning is – or should be – about planning for a time when you may need to rely on others to make crucial decisions for you, handle your finances and care for those who depend on you.
Naming people you trust to have power of attorney (POA) over your health care and finances if you’re seriously ill or injured is a wise estate planning step for adults of any age. Florida law is unique in also allowing people to name a “preneed guardian.”
A lot of people – particularly those without spouses or adult children – fear what will happen if they become unable to care for themselves and no longer possess the cognitive functions necessary to determine how and where they’ll live. You may have seen disturbing stories of “professional” guardians being appointed by the court to care for people – only to steal from them or neglect them.
Who can be a guardian?
By naming a preneed guardian, you can designate someone to “assume the duties of guardian immediately upon an adjudication of incapacity.” This isn’t just important for those who don’t have relatives ready and willing to take on this role. It can be helpful if you have multiple adult children because it can prevent battles over your care when you can’t weigh in.
You can name any “competent adult” to be a preneed guardian. It may be the same person you’ve given POA for your medical and financial needs. You can designate them in your estate plan.
Be sure they’re agreeable to taking on this responsibility
It’s crucial to discuss your wishes with the person you want to designate to be your guardian (as well as any alternate). You want to make sure they fully understand what they’re agreeing to – even if that scenario seems unthinkable now.
You should discuss your wishes for care and make sure they know about any long-term care (LTC) policy or money you have set aside for a residential care facility. If you want to remain in your home for as long as possible, your LTC policy may cover that as well.
Once you’ve codified your preneed guardian, it’s a good idea to make sure your family knows who it is and why you chose them. This can help make your guardian’s job a bit easier if and when the time comes.
There’s much more to know about naming a preneed guardian. Having sound estate planning guidance will help address your questions and concerns.