In the past, it was not uncommon for many individuals to be concerned with the prospects of dying, but few gave much thought to ever becoming incapacitated.
Today, the likelihood of becoming incapacitated has increased dramatically. Part of the reason is due to the advances in medicine. Indeed, the fastest growing segment of the population of the United States, according to government statistics, is people over the age of 65. And, no one would doubt that the risk of incapacity increases substantially with age. The U.S. Bureau of the Census estimates that as much as 47% of individuals over the age of 85 will develop Alzheimer’s disease, which generally results in incapacity.
But, there are other contributing factors as well. As our population density increases, the risk of incapacitating injuries from all sorts of accidents also increases. Moreover, medical advances now permit life to be prolonged indefinitely through artificial means.
Fortunately, the legal community is becoming more aware of the risks of incapacity and the attendant problems confronting incapacitated individuals and their families. In response, a number of new tools have emerged, which serve to combat the consequences of incapacity. These new tools include the revocable living trust, advance health care directives (including the living will), and the durable power of attorney.
In this section, we’ll discuss the durable power of attorney, a type of document that has become a standard estate planning tool for virtually all individuals in today’s economic environment.
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