How Do I Plan for My Incapacity?

What would happen if you were mentally or physically unable to take care of yourself or your day-to-day affairs? You might not be able to make sound decisions about your health or finances. You could lose the ability to pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell assets, or otherwise conduct your affairs. Unless you’re prepared, incapacity could devastate your family, exhaust your savings and undermine your financial, tax and estate planning strategies.

The Post-Searchlight’s recent article, “How to go about planning for incapacity,” advises that planning ahead can make certain that your health-care wishes will be carried out, and that your finances will continue to be competently managed.

Incapacity can strike at any time. Advancing age can bring dementia and Alzheimer’s disease, and a serious illness or accident can happen suddenly. Therefore, it’s a real possibility that you or your spouse could become unable to handle your own medical or financial affairs.

If you become incapacitated without the proper plans and documentation in place, a relative or friend will have to petition the court to appoint a conservator for you. This is a public procedure that can be stressful, time consuming and costly. In addition, without your directions, a guardian might not make the decisions you would have made.

How Do I Plan for My Incapacity?

Advance medical directives. Without any legal documents that state your wishes, healthcare providers are obligated to prolong your life using artificial means, if necessary, even if you really don’t want this. To avoid this happening to you, sign an advance health care directive. Employ an experienced estate planning attorney to prepare your Advanced Medical Directive to make certain that it covers all that you need and represents your goals.

Durable power of attorney (DPOA). This document lets you to name an individual to act on your behalf for financial assets during your life.  A DPOA is usually used on conjunction with a Trust during life.  There are two types of DPOA: (i) an immediate DPOA. This document is effective immediately; and (ii) a springing DPOA, which isn’t effective until you’ve become incapacitated. Both types end at your death.

Incapacity can be determined by (i) physician certification where you can include a provision in a durable power of attorney naming one or more doctors to make the determination, or you can state that your incapacity will be determined by your attending physician at the relevant time; and (ii) judicial finding where a judge is petitioned to determine incapacity where a hearing is held where medical and other testimony will be heard.

Reference: The Post-Searchlight (December 13, 2019) “How to go about planning for incapacity”

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