When people think about estate planning, they typically think about creating a last will and testament. Estate planning should also include incapacity planning. The goal of incapacity planning is to ensure that your family members can take care of you when you can no longer take care of yourself due to a sudden illness or life-threatening injury.
Reach Out to a Pittsburgh Incapacity Planning Attorney
Incapacity planning allows you to prepare and plan for your future today to protect your best interests if you become incapacitated. The skilled estate planning attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace understand that thinking about incapacity can be difficult. Our caring attorneys guide clients through the incapacity planning process to create a comprehensive estate plan. If you have questions about incapacity planning, we are here to help. Contact Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to schedule an initial consultation.
The Importance of Incapacity Planning
Incapacity typically strikes when we least expect it. None of us can control the future, but we do have the ability to put a plan in place that will protect our family members and ourselves if we become incapacitated. Engaging in incapacity planning is especially important for those with a family history of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia. This type of medical diagnosis could result in an inability to manage one’s own affairs. A person could also be in a devastating car accident or have a poor reaction to surgery or other medical procedure that results in a coma.
Without a legally valid plan for incapacity, the aftermath of such an accident or diagnosis can be emotionally devastating and draining. Your surviving family members may have to court and deal with legal paperwork during a medical crisis. Without a plan, your loved ones will need to focus on obtaining a conservatorship or guardianship so they can make decisions for you and take care of you, adding additional financial and emotional stress.
By taking time to create a plan for incapacity and putting together important legal documents ahead of time, you can avoid a significant amount of turmoil and ensure that you receive the medical care you desire should you become incapacitated.
Managing Your Finances
What happens if you become incapacitated and your mortgage payment is due while in the hospital? In this scenario, a family member may need to go to court to receive authorization to make the payment for you. You can avoid this scenario by creating a financial power of attorney and/or a living trust. When you appoint a financial power of attorney, that person will have the ability to make decisions regarding your assets and finances if you cannot do so yourself. Your agent will have the ability to pay your bills, file tax returns, handle Investments, and manage other important financial affairs. You can choose to make the power of attorney durable, which means it will be effective as soon as you sign it. Alternatively, you can create a springing power of attorney that only goes into effect after you’ve been determined to be mentally incapacitated.
Another option is to create a living trust in which you are the creator, also called grantor, trustee, and beneficiary. Should you become incapacitated, your designated successor trustee can step in and manage the assets in the trust. When you create the trust, you can also choose beneficiaries who will receive the trust’s assets upon your death.
Health Care Decisions
Another important aspect of incapacity planning is ensuring that you’ve appointed an agent who can make healthcare decisions for you should you become incapacitated. Pennsylvania residents can create a durable power of attorney for health care. In this document, you can designate a person you trust to make medical treatment options for you if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. The person you designate is called your health care agent.
It’s also a good idea to complete a HIPAA authorization form allowing your doctor to release your health information to the person or people you designate. Doing so allows your loved ones to stay up-to-date about your medical condition if you’re incapacitated.
What Is a Living Will?
A living will serves to inform others about your preferred medical treatments should you become terminally ill, permanently unconscious, or unable to communicate decisions. Using a living will with other estate planning tools can bring peace of mind and security. It can also help your health care agent and make sure that he or she is making decisions you would have wanted them to make. All these tools can help you and your loved ones avoid unnecessary expenses and delays should you become incapacitated.
Initiating the Conversation with Your Power of Attorney
Talking about serious medical conditions, incapacity, and end-of-life situations is always challenging. However, by taking the time to talk to your adult children and loved ones, you can help prepare them with knowledge about what could happen in the future. If you have named your adult child or a friend your power of attorney, notifying them will help them understand their obligations in the future. In many cases, speaking to family ahead of time is helpful.
You can discuss the responsibilities of being a power of attorney agent, trustee, or successor trustee. Some families want to meet with one of our estate planning attorneys to discuss everyone’s questions and concerns and review legal paperwork. Many family members express relief at the end of these meetings because everything is in the open, and they have an idea of what will happen.
Contact a Skilled Pittsburgh Estate Planning Attorney Today
None of us is certain about what will happen in the future. A sudden illness or an accident could result in incapacitation. Incapacity planning lets us enjoy peace of mind that our interests, assets, and wishes will be protected if the unexpected happens. Reach out to the Pittsburgh estate planning attorneys at Jones Gregg Creehan & Gerace to discuss how we can help you plan effectively for incapacity.