Planning For Your Incapacity (Published 07-2019)
Most people prepare wills and trusts to plan for their death. But what happens if you become seriously ill, or injured, but you don’t pass away? Who will take care of you and your affairs? How can you make sure that you have the help you need and can trust? It’s advisable to discuss planning for incapacity with an experienced estate planning attorney.
When you think of estate planning, you likely think of drafting documents to leave your property and assets to your family and other beneficiaries when you pass away. While planning for your estate is critical for your family, and important to preserve your hard-earned wealth; it is also important to plan for your possible incapacity. Many people become mentally and physically incapacitated, due to illness or injuries, and may remain permanently unable to make decisions for themselves.
What happens if you are in a coma after an unexpected accident? What if Alzheimer’s disease sets in and you no longer recall how to complete basic tasks? While these situations are not easy to think about, you want to have a plan to make sure everything will be taken care of if this happens.
Powers of Attorney for Property
If you become incapacitated, your bills and other financial obligations still need to be met. Your mortgage needs to be paid, your taxes need to be filed, insurance policies need to be reviewed, contracts signed, and much more. Who will take care of these matters if you cannot? Fortunately, you can designate a trusted family member, friend or advisor, who will have authority, to manage your financial and legal affairs, by drafting a power of attorney document. You want to share information with your chosen power of attorney to ensure they have the documents that they need to step in, and take over your affairs, with as little disruption as possible.
Powers of Attorney for Healthcare
Like a power of attorney for property, it is advisable to have a power of attorney for healthcare. This document designates a healthcare agent(s) who will make decisions regarding your day-to-day care, as well as long-term care, if you are not able to make these decisions for yourself. This can include medical decisions, such as surgeries or treatments, which medications should be administered, and your wishes for end-of-life care. These decisions can consider your religious and ethical views, personal preferences, and financial resources.
Planning for incapacity raises many important issues regarding your health and your financial well-being. It is advisable to address these issues sooner than later.
Matthew V. Piwowar is a Grand Rapids estate planning attorney. Mr. Piwowar is a member of the State Bar of Michigan, and the State Bar Probate & Estate Planning Section, the National Network of Estate Planning Attorneys, and the Michigan Forum of Estate Planners.