Estate Planning is typically associated with your wishes will be carried out after your death. But it’s also important that your plan addresses incapacity due to illness, injury, advanced age or other circumstances.
As with other aspects of your Estate Plan, the time to act is now, while you’re still healthy. If an illness or injury renders you unconscious or otherwise incapacitated, it will be too late. Unless you specify how financial and health care decisions will be made in the event you become incapacitated, there is no guarantee your wishes will be carried out, and your family may have to go through expensive and time-consuming guardianship proceedings.
Regarding financial decisions, planning techniques to consider include:
A Durable Power of Attorney. This document authorizes the representative you name-subject to limitations you stablish-to control your assets and manage your financial affairs.
A Living Trust. The same trust that can help you achieve your property transferring goals can also be invaluable should you become unable to manage your financial affairs. If you become incapacitated, your chosen representative takes over as trustee. A properly drawn living trust avoids guardianship proceedings and related costs, and it offers greater protection and control than a durable power of attorney because the trustee can manage the trust assets for your benefit.
Regarding health care decisions, planning techniques to consider include:
A Health Care Power of Attorney. This document (also referred to as “health care proxy”) authorizes a surrogate-your spouse, child, or another trusted representative-to make medical decisions or consent to medical treatment on your behalf when you’re unable to do so.
A Living Will. Also known as an advanced health care directive.” This document expresses your preferences for the use of life-sustaining medical procedures, such as artificial feeding and breathing, surgery, and invasive diagnostic tests. It also specifies the situation in which these procedures should be used or withheld.
HIPAA Authorization. Given the penalties for failing to comply with HIPAA, some medical professionals may err on the side of caution and refuse to share your information with your representative until they see a HIPAA Authorization. Also, since your Health Care Proxy may not come into effect until a physician certifies that you are incompetent, the HIPAA Authorization will allow the person you name to have access to your medical records or to discuss your medical condition if you are hospitalized without any unnecessary delay.
Now that you have a basic understanding of the Estate Planning documents, it’s time to consider who will fill these key roles in your Estate Plan.