Young adults are often urged to plan ahead and take control of their future; whether that means getting good grades and planning for college, searching for internships in their career area of interest, or saving money for the day when they are out on their own. Older adults, on the other hand (aside from being advised to save for retirement) may not know that there is one very important way to plan for their own future: choosing a guardian or conservator.

As the elderly population moves into their 70s, 80s and 90s it is not unusual to lose the ability to drive, manage their own finances, or even care for their own daily physical needs. When this happens, and the ability to care for yourself is lost, the courts will often give care over to a guardian or conservator—someone who will manage your money, medication, household tasks (or all of the above) for you.

If you have not taken steps ahead of time to name the person or people you trust to serve as your guardian or conservator then the courts will name one for you. Often the person named as guardian or conservator is the first person to petition the court for the job—although this may not be the person you would choose to manage your money or your care.

The best way to ensure that you have the right person managing your finances or your health care when the time comes is to plan ahead and execute a Nomination of Conservator, a Healthcare Directive, and a Durable Power of Attorney. Together these three documents let the courts know who you trust with your physical or medical care, and who you feel is qualified to properly manage your money without taking advantage. These three documents will help you take control of your own future, even at a time when losing some of that control may seem inevitable.