Have you Engaged Your Agency?

May 2018 marks the 55th anniversary of what is now known as Older Americans Month. When Senior Citizens Month was established in 1963, only 17 million living Americans, or about 9% of the population, had reached their 65th birthday.  Today, almost 50 million Americans (15.2% of the population) are age 65 or older.

“Engage at Every Age” is the theme of this year’s Older Americans Month.

Have you Engaged Your Agency?

Agency is a condition or state of acting or exerting power;[1] a means of exerting power or influence – instrumentality,[2] and the means or mode of acting – instrumentality.[3]  In all of these definitions, agency means taking action.

Everyone who is eighteen years old or older is presumed to have the capacity to make his or her own decisions, even decisions that others may consider foolish.  In short, we all have a constitutional right to do dumb things.  No one can overrule the individual barring exceptional circumstances.

The flip side to no one being able to overrule us once we turn eighteen is that no one else is empowered to act on our behalf if we are unable to act for ourselves due to injury, illness, biochemical imbalance, disappearance unless we have given that person permission to do so.  Absent the permission we grant, a loved one, concerned friend, or government agency, such as the local social services department, may need to petition the court to get permission to act on our behalf.

It is a privilege to be able to uphold our promises to our family and friends that we will put our affairs in order and lessen any burden on them.  You can keep your promises and Engage Your Agency by:

  • Executing a Durable General Power of Attorney so the named person has your permission to act on your behalf in financial and property matters, including caring for your pets, managing your utilities, paying your bills, disputing credit card charges, etc. You do not lose any power to act on your own behalf and your Agent owes you duties of loyalty, fairness, honesty, transparency, accountability, and more when acting.
  • Executing an Advance Medical Directive so the named person has your permission to make medical decisions for you, seek second opinions, consent to treatment, etc., when you are unable to make them yourself. Once you are able to make your own medical decisions again, your Agent ceases to act.
  • Executing a Burial Designation form (or better yet, make advance funeral, burial, or cremation arrangements) so the named person has priority in selecting your final arrangements and service if you are concerned that family members may disagree.
  • Executing a Will or Trust so that your assets are distributed according to your wishes, and not to those that Thomas Jefferson allegedly guessed you would like to have inherit if you did not specify otherwise.[4]

Don’t know where to start?  Contact Promise Law to set a consultation appointment.  We will review your values, hopes, and goals and work collaboratively with you to draft a plan helps you accomplish them.  If you have already drafted estate planning documents and they are more than five years old (or if your family has had changes), then contact us for a review appointment so you can determine if you would like to adjust your plans.

Engage Your Agency!

[1] Miriam-Webster Dictionary

[2] Collins English Dictionary

[3] American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language

[4] In fairness to Mr. Jefferson, he was trying to ensure that assets stayed in the family and were not paid to the government.