If you are like most people you probably believe you do not need to think about incapacity planning when you are healthy. After all, incapacitation is something that people who are elderly or suffering from a significant, and possibly terminal, disease need to think about because their situation demands it. Young, healthy people do not need to worry, right?
While this is generally true, it doesn’t mean that as a healthy person, you can ignore incapacity planning issues. No one can ever know what the future holds, and it’s entirely possible, though very unlikely, that you or a loved one could suffer a medical emergency at any time. Should this happen to you, not having an incapacity plan in place can make it incredibly difficult for your loved ones to look after your affairs and make sure they are doing what you would have wanted them to do. Today we take a look at why incapacity planning is important even if you are young, healthy, and don’t believe you need to worry.
Incapacity Planning When You’re Healthy: Representatives
Let’s say you are involved in a serious accident that leaves you unable to communicate or make decisions. Who will take care of your financial affairs when this happens? Who will communicate with your doctors and tell them the kinds of medical treatments you wish to accept or refuse? Who will know where your important documents are, how to access them, and who to talk to about your business, home, or personal affairs?
When you create an incapacity plan you name one or more representatives who have the legal authority to make these decisions for you, and who will be able to represent your interests. Should you fail to create a plan prior to losing capacity, a court will have to step in and name representatives on its own. Since you are incapacitated when this happens, you will have no control over who a court chooses to represent your interests.
Incapacity Planning When You’re Healthy: Wishes
Beyond representatives, what if you have specific desires or wishes about medical care, property management, or similar issues that you want to have honored if and when you lose capacity? Similar to naming representatives, a good incapacity plan will allow you to list specific desires you want to have followed when you lose your ability to communicate or make choices. If you name representatives and leave behind tools that list your desires, not only will your representatives have to follow your wishes, but they will be able to make decisions on their own if unaddressed situations arise.
Incapacity Planning When You’re Healthy: Children and Family
Another important issue you need to address when you create an incapacity plan is who you want to care for your family, children, or anyone else who might rely on you. For example, if you become incapacitated tomorrow, will your family be able to live on the money you have saved, or will you need to make other provisions to provide for them? If you are the only person who is providing parental care for your young child, who will take care of your child if you lose the ability to do so?
If you don’t have an incapacity plan, you don’t have clear answers for these types of questions.
Incapacity Planning When You’re Healthy: Changing Factors
An incapacity plan is based on the current circumstances and factors present in your life. Over time many of these factors will change and require you to change your plan to address them. If you have an incapacity plan in place and move to a different part of the country, you may need to update your plan to take into account the laws of the state in which you live, the distance from your medical representatives, and similar changes.
Incapacity Planning When You’re Healthy: Getting Started
No matter what your circumstances or desires may be, getting started on an incapacity plan is always best done sooner rather than later. We have helped our clients in creating incapacity plans for every stage of their lives, but we cannot offer you assistance until you decide to contact us. If you have yet to start the incapacity and estate planning process, contact us at your earliest opportunity so we can help you create a plan that meets your needs.