The motto of the United States Coast Guard is “Semper Paratus” which is Latin for “always ready” or “always prepared.” When it comes to being prepared for life’s challenges, including illness, incapacity, and death, it is wise to be “always prepared.” Unfortunately, in law practice many times we see that people are “Non Paratus” or “not prepared.”
Almost every a day in meeting with clients, I advise them that it is far easier to address legal matters proactively rather than to react to something once a crisis arises. It’s the old admonition, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” The law provides remedies for almost every imaginable situation but the remedies usually require a person to implement them while the person is competent and of sound mind. If a person becomes incapacitated, at that point, the available remedies are very limited.
An easy real life example may help underscore this concept. A son contacted me about his father who was in an assisted living facility (ALF) and was suffering from severe dementia. The father owned a house and the son needed to sell the house in order to provide funds to pay for the ALF. Unfortunately, the father had not executed a Durable Power of Attorney naming the son, or anyone else, to act for him. And because of his dementia, the father now lacked mental capacity to sign any legal documents. This placed the son in a tough situation because without selling the house, there were not sufficient funds to pay for the father’s care. The only option would be to file a Guardianship and have the son appointed Guardian for the father. Guardianship is a slow, expensive, and unpleasant process and can be humiliating to the person being declared incapacitated. If, while still of sound mind, the father had executed a Durable Power of Attorney appointing the son to act for him, the house could have been sold with little difficulty. Instead, they faced a difficult and expensive road.
So, when it comes to being legally prepared for life’s challenges, are you “Semper Paratus” or “Non Paratus?