It’s human nature to avoid spending mental energy thinking about things that make us uncomfortable or are particularly challenging. One such topic that fits into these categories is the idea of being so ill or experiencing some sort of medical emergency that a person is no longer able to care for or even make decisions for themselves. While planning for incapacity may indeed feel morbid and daunting, it’s something that can ensure that your needs are met and that your loved ones understand what you want.
At the law office of Johannesmeyer & Sawyer, PLLC, our estate planning attorneys can help you plan for incapacity, as well as navigate other elements of your estate plan. Reach out to us today to get started.
What Is Incapacity Planning?
Incapacity planning is one facet of estate planning. This element of planning is a process that involves the creation of myriad legal documents that help you to protect your wealth, your spouse, your beneficiaries, and your wishes, while also authorizing specific individuals to make determinations on your behalf pertaining to your healthcare, your finances, or both. These types of legal documents and decisions can be changed at a later time in the event that your circumstances shift but having them in place now is a key part of preparing for the unknown and ensuring that you’re ready in the event of an unforeseen event.
Why Is Planning for Incapacity So Important?
One of the most important reasons that incapacity planning is essential is simply that it puts the power of decision-making in your hands. In the event that you experience a healthcare crisis that leaves you unable to make decisions, you may not be able to express your wishes as they pertain to life-saving care, the use of oxygen or other life-maintaining measures, certain surgeries, organ donation, palliative care, etc.—making these preferences clear in advance provides peace of mind.
In addition to protecting your own preferences, incapacity planning also provides clear guidance for your loved ones and is a gift for them, too. For a spouse and adult children, it can be very difficult to know what to do in these types of situations, whether when discussing medical care, financial or business decisions, funeral and burial preferences, or something else related to the settling of the estate. By being proactive by making these decisions in advance, your family members are able to execute on your wishes without the pressure and potential conflict that can come with decision making.
Essential Elements of Incapacity Planning
If you are ready to take steps towards creating an estate plan that incorporates incapacity planning, there are a few essential documents that you will need. Two of the most important include:
- Power of attorney. A power of attorney is a legal document that gives another person the legal authority to make determinations on your behalf. There are two types of powers of attorney: healthcare powers of attorney and financial powers of attorney. The former allows a person to make medical choices; the latter is used to designate authority to make financial or business decisions. Talk with your spouse about who should serve as your power of attorney and make these determinations if you are incapacitated.
- Living will/advance directive. A living will, also called an advance directive, outlines your wishes for your medical care if the day comes when you are unable to express those wishes because you are physically or cognitively incapacitated. These preferences and guidelines will be used to direct medical professionals in your treatment.
In addition to the above documents, it’s also a good idea to shore up the other elements of your estate plan, too. For example, do you have a last will and testament, and have you placed assets into a trust for your beneficiaries? Should you experience a medical emergency, both you and your surviving loved ones will appreciate that you’ve taken a thoughtful approach to planning.
Call Our Estate Planning Lawyers Today
No one wants to think about the day when they are no longer here, or what may happen if they become incapacitated and unable to make or articulate decisions. While planning for this can be difficult, it’s one of the most important things that you’ll do. At the office of Johannesmeyer & Sawyer, PLLC, our experienced estate planning lawyers will work with you on planning for incapacity, recognizing the sensitive nature of doing so and the weight of these legal documents.
To learn more about how we can help and why we’re the experienced team you should trust, call us directly at (803) 396-3800 or send us a message using the intake form on our website. We keep your information confidential.