Estate planning participation rates in the United States continue to be depressingly low, as many Americans either put off those plans for later in life or simply don’t see any need for even the most basic planning tools. By most estimates, fewer than half of us bother to even create a Last Will and Testament – and fewer than a third engage in any type of incapacity planning. Find out why our elder law attorney recommends starting your planning early.
What is Incapacity Planning?
For some, it might seem odd that people would put much effort into planning for a possible day in which they lose the capacity to make their own decisions. In reality, however, we do this type of planning all the time – as we see every time someone purchases car or home insurance. Insurance policies are our way of planning for an uncertain future. We never know when another driver might collide with our car, or even whether that driver will have the means to pay for any damages he causes. We likewise cannot predict when a storm or other disaster will damage our homes, leaving us with thousands of dollars in repair costs.
How does incapacity planning work?
Incapacity planning is similar to those insurance policies in that it seeks to provide a layer of protection against the unforeseen. The fact is that any of us could be injured or otherwise rendered incapacitated at any moment of any day. Without a sensible plan in place, an incapacitated person’s family can experience tremendous confusion and disruption in nearly every area of their lives. To prevent that, certain critical plan components need to be in place.
The Elements of a Sound Incapacity Plan
One way to understand why an incapacity plan is so necessary is to review the basic elements that come together to form such a plan. When you create your plan, you should consider a number of different options. Our elder law attorney can explain those options to you in more depth.
Power of Attorney for financial concerns
This legal document empowers someone to act as your agent in fact in the event that you lose the capacity to make your own financial decisions. That person can be given narrow powers or broad authority to act on your behalf. By making your power of attorney durable, you can ensure that it lasts even after you are declared incapacitated.
Advance Healthcare Directive
Like the financial power of attorney, an advance directive assigns someone to make health care decisions for you during a period of incapacitation. Living wills can enable you to provide important directions about the type of care you want to receive at the end of your life.
Top reasons seniors need incapacity planning
If you’re incapacitated without a plan, your ability to make your own healthcare and financial decisions – or implement those decisions – could leave your family in a precarious position. Who decides what care you get? Who authorizes it when you’re incapable of giving your assent?
With no one authorized to manage your finances, your family could be left without access to key assets needed to pay bills and sustain their lifestyle. With no clear plan in place, a judge will likely determine who makes important decisions about your life. That could lead to the appointment of an unacceptable guardian. Court proceedings and guardian activities can be expensive, and those costs come out of your estate assets. You can reduce those expenses by acting now to protect your interests Our elder law attorney can help.
Your incapacity plan provides the continuity of decision-making your family needs to avoid increased anguish and worry during your period of incapacitation. The fact is that your accident or illness will be more than enough for them to deal with; they don’t need to also worry about bills, getting your health care treatment right, and other concerns that you could avoid with a solid plan.
So, how do you get started?
Of course, it’s not enough to just come to the conclusion that you do need an incapacitation plan. You also need to know which steps to take to get such a plan in place. The good news is that your planning can be far simpler than you might have ever imagined possible. All you need to do is contact an experienced estate planning and elder law attorney so that you can receive the guidance and assistance you need to get your plan created.
If you have questions regarding incapacity planning or any other elder law matters, please contact the experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Mary A. Miller, P.C. for a consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us at (914) 939-6565. We are here to help!
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