Many New York residents wrongly believe that they should wait until they are elderly before considering long-term care planning. If you share that opinion, then you may be woefully unprepared if you should encounter some kind of life-changing event. Imagine a car accident that renders you permanently disabled or an illness that deprives you of the ability to care for yourself. These are just two examples of where some thoughtful estate-planning now could potentially help you avoid significant challenges in the future.

Guardianships and conservatorships are perhaps the two most important elements of long-term care planning. A guardianship focuses on providing care for individuals who no longer have the capacity to make personal decisions alone. Typically, a conservatorship is a legal document that identifies individuals who will handle your financial affairs in the event you become unable to do that for yourself.

Here are a few numbers provided by the federal government that may make it easier to understand why you might want to consider long-term care planning now:

— According to longtermcare.gov, family members or friends provide a significant portion of long-term care services that occur throughout the country. Amazingly, the vast majority of these services are done free of charge. In fact, government statistics from 2009 indicated that one in four adults, or roughly 65.7 million people, provided care for a child or adult that year without pay.

— A caregiver is a person identified as providing for the common needs of another individual in a wide variety of services. These may include attending to the upkeep and cleaning of a person’s home or even helping to maintain his or her social health.

— It’s estimated that the average caregiver gives about 20 hours per week providing his or her services to other individuals.

— Women comprise a large segment of the caregiver community. About two-thirds of all caregivers are women.

The reason why this can be important to you is that you can designate an individual whom you trust as part of your long-term care strategy. This is true whether you wish to assign authority to a person to look after your property and assets or provide for your daily meals. An attorney with experience in New York’s estate planning laws can assist you in putting together a long-term estate plan tailored to your specific needs.

Source: Longtermcare.gov, “Who Will Provide Your Care?,” accessed June 09, 2015