By Sarah Stewart Legal Group

Nowadays, people are living longer and longer.  Many choose not to have children.   Some simply outlive their families, leaving these aging people to plan for their end-of-life without their family.

When these people age, what happens when they can no longer make decisions for themselves?

In order to have someone who can help you make decisions and manage your assets when you cannot do it yourself, you must put important estate planning documents in place.  These documents include healthcare directives, durable powers of attorney, and possibly Wills and Trusts.

If you are one of these people, or may be in the future, what can you do?

When You Don’t Know Who to Pick As A Decision-maker

Without the planning documents previously named, no one will have the authority to act on your behalf.  That means, someone will have to Petition the Court to become your Guardian and make decisions for you.  If you do not have family, it is likely the party Petitioning to be your Guardian will be the State.

In these cases, the State has decided that you are unable to care for yourself and need someone to look after you.  When they cannot find a family member to do that, they will file to act as your manager and decision-maker. The State will not know you personally and what your wishes may be.  The State will add your name to a long list of other individuals they care for and look after.

Wouldn’t you much rather pick a loved one you trust?

Who Do You Pick

Often, professionals who aid in your estate planning will ask you to name a primary, secondary, and sometimes even tertiary agent to act on your behalf in your documents. For married couples, the primary agent is usually the spouse.  For singles, this is a harder decision to make.

If you have a large family, but no children of your own, you will want to think about who you trust the most and who you are closest to in your extended family.  Reach out to them and have a discussion about your wishes for end-of-life and that you would like them to act as your agent. It is best to choose someone with a similar belief system to your own.

But, what if you’re not close to your family?  Then, you will need to look to your closest friends and associates. This, of course, can be challenging if all of you are the same age, as you may be going through the same problems at the same time and not be able to care for one another.  You will want to name at least primary, secondary, and tertiary agents, and strongly consider naming younger friends as agents.

Professional Guardians

If you’ve exhausted the list of people close to you and still do not feel comfortable naming someone as an agent, you will want to consider hiring a professional.

You may have a good connection with your local bank.  Often, they have departments that can act as Trustees for you and manage your assets when you no longer can.  In that situation, you would want to plan your long-term care ahead of time.

Sometimes attorneys and other professionals can be hired to act as Guardians.  You will need to find someone you trust and can see managing your finances and healthcare decisions long-term if you go this route.

You do not want to be forced to age in ways you would not want.  Reach out today to get your wealth and estate planning taken care of with a professional!