Estate planning typically is associated with how your wishes will be carried out after your death. But it’s also important that your plan address incapacity due to illness, injury, advanced age or other circumstances.
As with other aspects of your estate plan, the time to act is now, while you’re healthy. If an illness or injury renders you unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, it will be too late. Unless you specify how financial and health care decisions will be made in the event you become incapacitated, there’s no guarantee your wishes will be carried out. And your family may have to go through expensive and time-consuming guardianship proceedings.
Regarding financial decisions, planning techniques to consider include:
- A durable power of attorney. This document authorizes the representative you designate to control your assets and manage your financial affairs.
- A living trust. The same trust that can help you achieve your estate planning goals (see page 4) can also be invaluable should you become unable to manage your financial affairs. If you become incapacitated, your representative takes over as trustee. A properly drawn living trust avoids guardianship proceedings and related costs, and it offers greater protection and control than a durable power of attorney because the trustee can manage trust assets for your benefit.
Regarding health care decisions, planning techniques to consider include:
- A health care power of attorney. This document authorizes a representative (your spouse, child or another trusted representative) to make medical decisions or consent to medical treatment on your behalf when you are unable to do so.
- A living will. This document expresses your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures, such as artificial feeding and breathing, surgery and invasive diagnostic tests. It also specifies the situations in which these procedures should be used or withheld.
Contact us so that you plan for incapacitation. Your only other alternative, should you or a loved one become incapacitated, is to apply to be guardian of the estate and/or person, which is expensive and time consuming.