Some may not know this, but did you know that a large part of a comprehensive, strong estate plan should include planning for incapacitation? While the prospect of ever being in a position where you are unable to communicate your own preferences on things such as health care or being unable to manage your own money or legal affairs may be unpleasant to confront, the point remains true that none of us can predict future. None of us are immune from accidents or sudden illness. Planning for incapacitation now, when you are healthy and able to, can put critical legal protections in place that can help ensure that your wishes are honored regardless of what life throws your way.
How Do You Plan for Incapacitation?
Planning for incapacitation involves serious reflection on your health care, management of your affairs, and who you want to fill roles of responsibility in your life should you need such assistance. After this reflection, you will use the insight you have gained to guide you in establishing important legal tools to protect your wishes. Let’s take a look at some of the most important legal tools in incapacity planning:
- Durable Power of Attorney: With a power of attorney, you name an agent who will be empowered to conduct certain business or legal affairs on your behalf under specified circumstances. The durable power of attorney is durable because it survives incapacitation. With a durable power of attorney, you can choose a trusted individual to manage your affairs in the event that you become incapacitated and unable to do so for yourself. A durable power of attorney can be especially important when you consider the fact that having one in place can help avoid the need for guardianship proceedings.
- Health Care Surrogate: A health care surrogate, sometimes known as a health care power of attorney, appoints an agent, a surrogate, to make health care decisions on your behalf in the event of incapacitation. This person should be someone who can make difficult health care decisions with your wishes in mind. It should be a person whom you trust to make critical medical decisions for you when you cannot do so or cannot express your preferences.
- Living Will: Not to be confused with a “Last Will and Testament,” a living will details your end-of-life care preferences should you be in a terminal health care state and unable to communicate treatment preferences on your own. The more details you have in a living will, the more issues that your loved ones will understand your wishes on. You can specify the kind of end-of-life treatment you would wish or not wish to receive under certain circumstances.
Think of the peace of mind you could bring to yourself and your loved ones with these types of legal documents in place. Should you ever become incapacitated, your loved ones will have enough on their plate without having to worry about whether or not they are properly honoring your wishes.