Estate planning is a varied process. It encompasses everything from the drafting of a will and the creating of trusts, to determining who should make decisions regarding your healthcare should be become incapacitated. The advantage of planning is that it allows everyone involved to understand you intentions while you are fully capable of explaining them.
Conditions that affect the mental capacity, like dementia and Alzheimer's disease of individuals are on the increase. These conditions make it easy for the elderly to be taken advantage of by unscrupulous contractors, caregivers and family members. By creating a complete estate plan, with all the necessary documents, like a will, trusts and power of attorney, you can protect yourself and your intended beneficiaries.
From Chicago comes the story of how a 94-year old man was taken advantage of by his caregiver. The woman, a nurse, befriended him when he was 90 and offered to become his fulltime caregiver after he suffered a broken hip. He was a lifelong bachelor with no children. He had been diagnosed with dementia before she began to take advantage of him.
She has been charged with bilking him out of $350,000, and used his funds to pay for her home remodeling projects, buy a new car and she also spread the money around to her other family members.
She was sophisticated enough to hire an attorney on her on, to create all of the proper legal documents to allow her access to his assets. This is why you need to have power of attorney and other instruments in place prior to your developing any incapacity.
Source: ABA Journal, "Caregiver used legal documents to siphon $350K from elderly man's assets, prosecutors say," Martha Neil, April 9, 2013