If you have not made an estate plan yet, you are not alone. According to Caring.com as of last year, two-thirds of us still have not even made a will. Even those who have planned their estates may not have made an incapacity plan. Without such a plan, you and your loved ones will be left in the lurch, should you become incapacitated.
What is incapacity?
An incapacity plan refers to that part of your estate plan in which you provide instructions for how your loved ones should proceed in the event that you become incapacitated. Incapacity refers to any time in your life where you are not able to make your own decisions. This could be because of an injury that leaves you unconscious or otherwise unable to make decisions, or it could be due to an illness or dementia.
An incapacity plan will include some kind of healthcare proxy or living will that outlines your end-of-life and medical wishes. For example, if the doctor feels an amputation is needed, and you are unconscious and unable to consent, a family member may be asked to make this decision. Your incapacity plan will cover this and ensure that you only have the medical procedures done that you would consent to, if you could consent.
What needs to happen while you are in the hospital?
Do you take care of your family, pay the bills, balance the checkbooks, etc.? If so, even if you are temporarily incapacitated, your family will still need to take care of these tasks. Bills will still need to be paid. The last thing you want to wake up to is an eviction or foreclosure. How would you feel if you found out your family’s lights were turned off because they would not take payment from your wife. Next time you make a bill or utility payment, ask if someone could pay your bill for you. You may be surprised that the answer is no.
How do I make sure life can go on?
Another part of your incapacity plan is to empower someone to act in your place through a power of attorney. Even if you are married, some companies still require a power of attorney to grant access to accounts.
An experienced estate planning attorney can help you develop plans that will make things easier for your loved ones and give you peace of mind.