The Most Overlooked Part of Estate Planning
When you start thinking about your estate plan, you probably consider how you want your assets and children cared for after your death. There is another component of estate planning that is often overlooked, though. Everyone knows they will pass away one day, but we don’t typically think about, or plan for, an accident or medical situation that might leave you incapacitated. Planning for incapacity is a crucial component of your estate planning that everyone needs to complete. Let’s look at some of the critical planning pieces for incapacity you should include in your estate plan.
Planning for Incapacity
Incapacity means that you are still alive but unable to make your own medical and financial decisions. For example, if you’re in a coma, you won’t be able to let doctors know how you want to proceed with your treatment or maintain your financial responsibilities. The process of planning for incapacity is simple and can get as detailed as you wish. The items to include for incapacity in your estate plan are a durable power of attorney, medical power of attorney, medical advanced directive, living will, and designation of a preneed guardian. Let’s dive into each of these components more closely.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney is someone you designate to handle your assets and financial responsibilities if you become incapacitated or disabled. This person will be able to pay your bills and engage in any property transactions. Basically, a durable power of attorney has full access and permission to your finances and assets, so choose this person wisely.
If you don’t designate a durable power of attorney and become incapacitated, the court could decide what happens with your assets. Choosing a trusted and respected person close to you to manage your assets if you become incapacitated will help ensure your medical care is prioritized, plus the other financial responsibilities you have.
Medical Power of Attorney
A medical power of attorney, or designated health care surrogate, is appointed to make medical decisions for you if you cannot do so for yourself. Your medical power of attorney will likely work closely with the durable power of attorney, if they aren’t the same person, to ensure your finances and medical care are aligned.
The person who serves as your medical power of attorney should understand what you want in your medical care. Talk with this person and tell them how you would like to proceed in different medical situations. This will help your health care surrogate confidently make decisions in the event of incapacity.
Medical Advanced Directive
If you prefer to state precisely what you wish to happen in medical situations, you can complete a medical advanced directive. This directive should say what treatments and care you do and do not want if you cannot decide for yourself. Your exact wishes outlined in a medical advanced directive will be honored and carried out by a person you designate. Make sure your loved ones and the person who will carry out this directive have a complete understanding of your wishes.
The medical advanced directive is different from a living will. This directive is when you are sick or injured and unable to make your own medical decisions but prefer to have specific treatment. A living will focuses on the end of your life. While a medical advanced directive isn’t always included in estate plans, it can provide extra peace of mind for you and your friends and family in the event of incapacity.
Other Items to Include
There are a couple of other components to include in your estate plan that can become useful during incapacity. The first is a living will. Like we mentioned earlier, a living will states your wishes on your care for the end of your life. You may not be able to voice those wishes at that time, so having a living will in place is a wise plan.
A Designation of Preneed Guardian is a directive you can put in place that designates a person you choose to take care of you if the court determines you cannot do so yourself. For example, someone with dementia or Alzheimer’s disease might reach a point where they need a guardian to care for them. A Preneed Guardian will make many decisions on your behalf, so put some thought into who would serve that role well.
You can also designate a Preneed Guardian for your minor children if the last surviving parent becomes incapacitated. Many parents think about who will care for their children if they pass away. However, it’s also crucial to put a guardian in place for a situation where you are still alive but determined incapacitated to care for minor children.
Trust Merriman Law Firm For Your Estate Planning
There are often a lot of questions surrounding estate planning and what is essential for your unique circumstances. Contact the estate planning experts at Merriman Law Firm for your free initial consultation. We specialize in estate planning and provide our clients with guidance and a straightforward process that will give you peace of mind. No matter what your estate looks like, we can work alongside you to craft an estate plan with all of the necessary components that exceed your expectations.
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