This is a topic that, for most people, is uncomfortable to talk about. Unfortunately, not planning for incapacity can lead to disastrous consequences.
Why should you be proactive and plan for your incapacity?
First, it gives you control. The person you want to handle your affairs will be named. The things you want to happen will happen.
Second, it will save your family the grief and expense of going through a court process to appoint a guardian for you. They won’t have to take time off work and they won’t have to wait months for a court decision.
Finally, sometimes you need someone to act quickly for you. If you have a plan in place, then things that need to get done can be done in a timely manner and as privately as possible without the need of court involvement. Your agent can access financial accounts and records and submit an application for public benefits for you, your agent can manage your investments so they are taken care of, your bills can get paid on time, and your property can be maintained.
Planning is all about peace of mind. If you are one of the lucky ones and never become mentally incapacitated, then your agent won’t have to act on your behalf. But if you are one of the millions that will need an agent as you age, you will have a plan in place to give you and your family that peace of mind.
What are some other ways to plan for incapacity?
- You can sign a general, durable power of attorney. A Power of Attorney is a document that you can sign while you still have capacity that allows another to act on your behalf in the event you later become incapacitated. This person named in the Power of Attorney is your agent. As with a guardian, an agent must act in your best interests and there are consequences if the agent doesn’t do so. But by signing this document before you become incapacitated, you can bypass a court proceeding and simply have your agent act on your behalf in the event you are unable to do so.
- You can sign a Health Care Power of Attorney. Just as a Financial Power of Attorney allows someone to act on your behalf if you become incapacitated, so does a Health Care Power of Attorney. The former gives the agent authority to make financial decisions for you; the latter gives the agent the authority to make health care decisions for you.
- You can sign a HIPAA document. This document gives doctors and other health care providers permission to give information about your condition to the authorized recipients that you name.
- You can create a revocable living trust. This is a contract between you and your Trustee to hold and manage property in a certain manner. After you sign the contract, you transfer your property to the trust. If you become incapacitated the Successor Trustee can step in and manage the trust property according to your written instructions in the trust document.
Our office does a significant amount of work in incapacity planning. Please contact our office for assistance.