As an estate planning attorney, I often see clients who are primarily concerned with planning for the distribution of their assets after they pass away. While this is certainly an important aspect of estate planning, there is another critical area that many people overlook—planning for incapacity.
Incapacity planning involves putting legal documents and arrangements in place to ensure that someone can manage your affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. Incapacity can occur if you are involved in an accident, suffer from an illness or disease, or simply as a result of aging. Without proper planning that addresses this incapacity, your loved ones may be left scrambling to make important decisions on your behalf, potentially leading to costly legal battles and family strife.
Regardless of your age or financial wealth, incapacity planning is crucial for several reasons:
- Protecting Your Interests: If you become incapacitated, someone else will need to step in and make important decisions for you. Without a proper plan in place to designate who that person should be, a probate court may have to appoint a guardian or conservator to make those decisions for you. This can be a time-consuming and expensive process, and you may end up with someone making decisions for you who you would not have chosen.
- Ensuring Your Wishes are Honored: Incapacity planning allows you to designate someone to make important decisions for you if you are unable to do so. With a comprehensive plan in place, your wishes will be honored, even if you are unable to express them yourself.
- Avoiding Family Conflict: If you do not have an incapacity plan in place, family members may disagree about who should make decisions for you, potentially leading to costly legal battles and family strife. Incapacity planning can help avoid these conflicts by clearly designating who should make decisions for you.
- Preventing Financial Losses: If you become incapacitated and no one is authorized to manage your finances, bills may go unpaid, and assets may be lost or mismanaged. Proper incapacity planning can prevent financial losses by ensuring that someone is authorized to manage your finances if you are unable to do so.
Incapacity planning is not just for the elderly or those with significant wealth. Accidents and illnesses can happen to anyone at any time, and having legal documents in place to protect your interests can bring peace of mind and security to you and your loved ones.
If you have not yet taken steps to plan for incapacity, schedule an appointment to talk with us. We can help you understand your options and create a plan that meets your unique needs and circumstances.