“Planning for incapacity is a lot like buying homeowner’s insurance. Not everyone will become incapacitated, just as not everyone will experience a house fire. However, it is prudent to prepare so you are ready for whatever life may bring.”
Planning for incapacity is a lot like buying homeowner’s insurance. Not everyone will become incapacitated, just as not everyone will experience a house fire. However, it is prudent to prepare so you are ready for whatever life may bring. Here are keys for planning ahead for incapacity.
Why You Should Plan for Incapacity
If you enjoy having control over your life, you will not want to be at the mercy of people you did not select to look out for you. If you lose the ability to make or communicate your decisions, your family might have to go through the expense and stress of going to court to get a guardianship set up or to have a judge sign a court order. Families can be ripped apart in these highly-emotional situations. Your care or financial matters can suffer delays, while waiting for your case to go through the court process.
The person the court selects might not make the same decisions you would have made. It is best to designate someone you can trust to do what you would want, and clearly communicate your wishes to that person. Let your family members and close friends also know your wishes, so they will be supportive of the decisions your designated person makes for you.
Protecting Your Money
Your lawyer can draft a power of attorney that will give the person of your choice the legal authority to act on your behalf on financial matters, such as paying your bills, managing your investments, handling your insurance claims and selling your house, if you need the funds to move into long-term care. Make sure that the power of attorney is durable, so it will still be effective if you become incapacitated.
Make sure your estate planning documents, such as a will or living trust, are up to date. Consider purchasing long-term care insurance.
Health Care and End-of-Life Decisions
You will need a separate document, a health care proxy, to give someone the legal authority to make your health care and end-of-life decisions. The durable power of attorney for financial matters will not cover health care or end-of-life issues usually. Make sure the proxy grants the authority to make the decisions that matter most to you.
Write a letter of instruction that gives informal guidance to your decision-maker about specific situations. These instances can include things like life support, tube feeding and other scenarios, especially if you have strong feelings one way or the other . Consider selecting someone with convictions that are similar to yours on the fundamental concepts of religion, spirituality and life and death.
Complete a medical records release form so your doctors and health care providers may share your medical information with the person you make your health care decisions, if you cannot do so. Without a medical records release form, HIPAA regulations will prevent the disclosure of your medical information. Your decision-maker will need your information to make informed decisions for you.
This posting discusses the general law. Since every state has different laws, it is best to talk with an elder law attorney in your area.
TIAA. “Planning for Incapacity.” (accessed October 29, 2017) https://www.tiaa.org/public/offer/insights/life-events-personal-finance/planning-for-incapacity
Minnesota Board on Aging. “Planning Ahead.” (accessed October 29, 2017) http://www.mnaging.net/Advisor/~/media/MNAging/Docs/Planning-Ahead-Booklet.ashx