Expecting the Unexpected: The Importance of Authorizing Information Sharing

We know you have worked hard and prepared well with every expectation you will be able to enjoy a long and comfortable retirement. As your advisors, we plan for this accordingly when we design your financial plan and investment portfolio to support you throughout this next phase of your life.

That we all age is a fact not in dispute. For some of us, however, we may become physically frail or experience cognitive decline sooner than expected. Estimates by the National Center on Elder Abuse are as many as 50% of people will experience some form of cognitive decline after age 85. The loss of physical or cognitive ability could make it more difficult for you to manage your normal financial affairs and also leave you more exposed to abuse or neglect.

At Private Ocean, we are not trained medical professionals, and yet our relationship with you often gives us a unique perspective into your life. If we were to observe some question of client capacity or elder abuse, we would be naturally concerned for you and your needs.

As an initial step to prepare for these unforeseen circumstances, we ask all clients to provide us with their most up-to-date estate planning documents, including wills, living wills, trust agreements, durable powers of attorney for financial matters and durable powers of attorney for health care. For many clients, their spouse and/or children will be well aware of any ongoing difficulties and have powers to act on your behalf.

In other cases, however, there may not be close relatives nearby. There may be a transitional period when the loss of cognitive or physical ability has occurred and when the powers of attorney are not yet legally effective. Some powers of attorney require intervention of a court or diagnosis by a physician.

Strict privacy rules prevent our disclosing the possibility of cognitive decline or abuse to your family members or other professionals. As a result, we must balance our concerns about any potential incapacity with your legal right to confidentiality and privacy.

To address these concerns, Private Ocean has developed an Authorization to Contact and Share Information (or Trusted Contact Form) for your review and consideration. Our process would be to first share our concerns directly with you. If this effort does not reach a successful outcome, this Authorization would allow us to contact a family member or other designated individual to elevate our concerns to their attention.

Most of us would rather not discuss this difficult topic. Yet, Private Ocean is committed to being your fiduciary if you as a client might be showing signs of declining cognitive ability or possible abuse. Please contact your advisor if you have questions or concerns.

To download the form, click here. Once completed, you can return to us to keep in your records.


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