Planning for Incapacity
“One in four American adults live with a disability, according to the Center for Disease Control. One in 10 adults over the age of 65 has Alzheimer’s or dementia, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.”
Planning for incapacity is just as important as planning for death. One is certain, the other is extremely likely. Therefore, it makes sense to prepare in advance, advises the article “Planning ahead for incapacity helps you and family” from The Press-Enterprise.
What is Incapacity and Why is it Important to Plan for It?
Let’s start by defining capacity. Each state has its own language but for the most part, incapacity means that a person is incapable of making decisions or performing certain acts. A concerned adult child is usually the one trying to have a senior parent declared incapacitated.
A person who has a mental or physical disorder may still be capable of entering into a contract, getting married, making medical decisions, executing wills or trusts, or performing other actions. However, before a person is declared incapacitated by medical professionals or a court, having a plan in place makes a world of difference for the family or trusted person who will be caring for them. Certain legal documents are needed.
Legal Documents Needed for Incapacity Planning
The Role of a Power of Attorney in Incapacity Planning
The Importance of an Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will
A POA is a powerful document. A POA gives another person control of your life. Yes, your named agent has a fiduciary duty to put your interests first and could be sued for mismanagement or abuse. However, the goal of a POA is to protect your interests, not put them at risk. Choosing a person to be your POA must be done with care. You should also be sure to name an alternate POA.
A POA expires on your death, so the person will not be involved in any decisions regarding your estate, burial, or funeral arrangements. That is the role of the executor, named in your will.
The Benefits of Planning for Incapacity in Advance
Advance health care directive or living will provide your instructions about medical care. This document is one that most people would rather not think about. However, it is very important if your wishes are to be followed. It explains what kind of medical care you do or do not want, in the event of dementia, a stroke, coma, or brain injury. It gets into the details: do you want resuscitation, mechanical ventilation, or feeding tubes to keep you alive?
It can also be used for post-death wishes concerning autopsies, organ donation, cremation, or burial.
The dramatic events of the pandemic have taught us all that we don’t know what is coming in the near future. Planning in advance is kindness to yourself and your family.
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