Avoiding Litigation When a Wealthy Person Becomes Incapacitated But Has No Close Family

In a recent post, we discussed the challenges that exist when a wealthy person has no children or other close relatives but needs to prepare their estate planning.  Among the biggest issues is selecting people to assist with medical and financial decisions if the person develops dementia or alzheimer’s and can no longer make those decisions for themselves. 

One of the toughest issues facing a person with no close family is selecting someone to make medical decisions for them if they are unable to make their own medical decisions.  Should he select a close friend to make the decisions?  Should he select a distant family member instead?  Should he select a professional to make the decisions?

The same questions have to be asked when deciding who should make financial decisions in the event of incapacity.  Different than the medical decisions, the financial decisions carry a much higher opportunity for people to abuse the wealthy incapacitated person.  For instance, if the person selects his best friend to manage his estate under a power of attorney, the best friend would then have access to spend all of the wealthy person’s money with virtually no one to supervise the way that the money is spent.  Likewise, if he appointed a distant relative, the relative might to decide to informally alter the person’s estate planning and start making gifts to other family members.

Failing to select the right people to assist in making decisions for a wealthy person who has no close relatives can create significant opportunities for litigation.  By contrast, careful consideration can result in selecting the best people who will fulfill the wealthy principal’s desires perfectly and with no litigation.

If you are considering how best to structure your estate planning to avoid litigation, the attorneys at Ford + Bergner LLP have considerable experience in counseling clients on these issues to make the best decisions possible.  Please contact us if you would like to discuss your estate planning with an eye toward avoiding litigation.