Guardianships (control of your person) and conservatorships (control of your assets) have been in the news a lot recently. Britney Spears, a world-famous pop star, became the focus of media attention after being under the control of an allegedly inappropriate and abusive guardianship and conservatorship for more than a decade. Other celebrities have also since spoken up about guardianships and conservatorships limiting their control over their own lives.
If someone goes to the courts and claims you are not capable of taking care of yourself or your financial affairs because of a mental health issue, the court may be convinced to name someone as your guardian, your conservator or both. This could strip you of many of your legal rights to make your own decisions. However, careful estate planning now can protect you from being placed under a guardianship or conservatorship that undermines your wishes later in life.
You can select the people you want to manage your affairs
There are several documents you can include in your estate plan that will take effect while you are still alive. Advance directives and powers of attorney provide information about your wishes and designate the authority to act on them to the person you select. Advance planning can be important for those who worry about what might happen if they become incapacitated.
Using medical or financial powers of attorney, you can name someone else to handle your affairs or make medical decisions for you if and when you become incapacitated or experience cognitive decline. Those documents may protect you from an involuntary guardianship or conservatorship over which you have no control.
Integrating these documents into your estate plan protects you and can help ensure you receive the right treatment and support in your later years.