We have heard clients and children of clients tell us that documents we have drafted to provide for disability have been extremely helpful to them in troubled times. These documents are intended to assist your family at a time when you are unable to give direction and counsel. They are drafted and signed when you are fully competent and they empower persons you select to make decisions on future issues you cannot foresee at the time of signing.
Powers of Attorney. You probably have someone you trust fully to act in your best interest and would want that person to act for you in the event you become incapable of managing your affairs. A simple way to give that person (your attorney-in-fact) the power to act for you is by executing a power of attorney. If your trust is high in your attorney-in-fact a durable, general power of attorney is probably appropriate and allows your attorney-in-fact to act for you in most of your business and financial matters without the need of a Court finding you incapable and without the expense and indignity of a conservatorship. Powers of attorney allow the attorney-in-fact to act without court supervision or accounting in most instances. Limited powers of attorney to authorize some, but not all, powers and springing powers of attorney, which take effect only upon your incapacity, are sometimes substituted for general powers, but have limitations you need to understand and accept. There are other measures that can balance the advantages and disadvantages of powers of attorney and should be discussed with your attorney.
Designation of Conservator. Connecticut law allows you to designate the person or persons you want to handle your affairs in the event of your future incapacity. By signing a properly drafted designation document, you, rather than a probate judge or family members, can select the person or persons to act under court supervision to handle your affairs. That document can also reduce court expenses by excusing bond in appropriate cases.
Advance Health Care Directives. Who will make your medical decisions for you if dementia, coma or some other cause prevents you from being able to do so? You can make and document decisions now for future medical care if you become terminally ill or permanently comatose in a document called an advance health care directive (sometimes called a “living will” or a “death with dignity document”). You can also appoint one or more persons to make decisions for you as your health care representative or representatives in that or a separate document which will put the persons you select in charge of making medical decisions for you if and when you cannot.
Living Trusts. Living trusts are useful to provide for management of your affairs while you are alive as well as to provide for distribution to your beneficiaries at death. Your trustee can act much like an attorney-in-fact under a durable, general power of attorney. Living trusts have the advantage over durable, general powers of attorney by allowing you to set out guidelines and requirements for handling your affairs rather than relying solely on the discretion of an attorney-in-fact. We have noted over the years that trustees generally experience less trouble acting under old trust documents than attorneys-in-fact acting under old powers of attorney experience with banks, transfer agents and others.