In many ways, planning for incapacity is even more difficult than planning for death. Eventually, we all pass away; however, it may be unfathomable to consider a time when we may be alive, but unable to communicate our thoughts or wishes to those around us. Unfortunately, many people will become incapacitated before they pass away, leaving their health decisions in limbo unless they have proper life and estate plans in place.
Incapacity can mean the inability to make decisions for one's health care, or financial and personal affairs. Incapacity could come as the result of an injury or physical or mental illness. This includes traumatic brain injury, stroke, or degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's or Parkinson's.
The most important documents when planning for incapacity include an advance health care directive, durable power of attorney, and living trust. While a will provides for the disposition of your property after death, these other documents allow you to give clear and concise directions for your life at a time when you may be unable to communicate your desires and wishes. These types of decisions should be made at a time when you have the opportunity to think about who you trust to make decisions on your behalf and allows you to discuss these difficult topics with them.
An advance health care directive (AHCD), also known as a living will, allows an individual to appoint an agent to make health care decisions on their behalf. The directive can also set forth how an individual wants to be treated in certain conditions, including whether they consent or refuse consent to any care or treatment. It also sets forth clear instructions on resuscitation or providing artificial nutrition and hydration. A directive also provides for the individual to express their wishes in regards to organ donations.
A durable power of attorney (DPA) can be used to give broad power to another to make decisions on your behalf, or it can be narrowly tailored to limit decision-making to a single issue. Many people use a durable power of attorney to delegate financial decisions to another, such as paying bills. The agent designated could be an attorney, family member, or other adult the principal trusts to handle their money.
A revocable living trust allows an individual to transfer their assets to a trust, for their own benefit. This allows them to use their assets as they wish or designate during their life. A living trust can also provide for an alternate trustee in the event the individual becomes incapacitated.
All of these estate planning tools have certain benefits and drawbacks. It is important to understand the limitations of these documents before entering into them. You should speak with your experienced San Diego estate planning attorneys to help you decide which options might be right for you.
If you have any questions about estate planning or planning for incapacity, the San Diego law firm of Butterfield Schechter LLP is here to help. We will answer all your questions and make sure your estate plan will provide for your loved ones and keep your best interests at heart. Contact our office today with any questions on how we can help you and your family plan for the future.