While many people know about wills and trusts, fewer are aware of their options in case of incapacitation. What will you do to protect your assets and rights if you become incapacitated?
Below, an estate planning attorney from the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A., in Palm Harbor, FL, describes legal incapacitation and the benefits of preparing for incapacity. Schedule a consultation by calling (727) 351-7057 or completing our online form.
What Is Incapacity? The Consequences of Failing to Prepare
Legal incapacitation is a condition in which a person can no longer make their own decisions or communicate their wishes. Accidents can happen anytime on the freeway, and other causes of incapacitation might include dementia, long-term illness, and other conditions that affect a person’s reasoning, consciousness, or communication.
If you become incapacitated without an estate plan, the court would appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions in your best interest—perhaps someone you wouldn’t have necessarily chosen for yourself.
Your guardian will have the authority to make healthcare decisions about life support, medical treatment, which hospital or medical facility you attend, and more. A conservator would have access to your assets to ensure payment for your ongoing treatments, housing, and other costs. Sometimes the court appoints the same person to act as guardian and conservator.
How to Plan for Incapacity in Your Estate Planning Documents
The benefits of planning are that you will be the one to select the person who will possibly make decisions on your behalf—decisions ranging from medical to financial and legal.
Your estate planning attorney can help you choose a durable power of attorney and healthcare power of attorney to represent your interests in the event of incapacity. Your advance directive attorney can also help you design a living will, which will outline your wishes in the event of incapacity to guide your healthcare POA about your preferred care.
Consider who you would choose to act as your powers of attorney. Do you have a friend or family member in the medical profession you would trust to handle your medical decisions? Who would you trust to manage your assets to pay for your continued treatment or living arrangements?
Power of Attorney and Advance Directives
Estate planners should include a durable power of attorney, healthcare power of attorney, and advance directives. Your advance directive lawyer can help you manage each of these essential elements in planning for potential incapacity. These documents include:
- Durable Power of Attorney. Your power of attorney makes financial decisions on your behalf when you are not mentally fit or cannot communicate your wishes. A durable power of attorney remains in effect in the event of incapacitation, whereas a standard power of attorney will expire upon incapacitation. Ensure that your POA is durable.
- Healthcare Power of Attorney. Your healthcare POA, patient advocate, or healthcare surrogate will act on your behalf to communicate wishes for medical treatment. It could include intubation, life support, blood transfusions, feeding tubes, medications, and other treatments and therapies. Ensure that your healthcare POA is durable in the event of incapacitation.
- Advance Directives. Also called a “living will,” your advance directives can clarify your wishes for medical treatment while you are healthy and competent. For instance, you can dictate your desire against staying on life support beyond a certain point, which treatments you want to implement or deny, and if you wish to sign a DNR (do-not-resuscitate) order.
After filing your advance directives, send copies to your primary physician to add to your medical chart, as well as to your healthcare POA and your own records. Finally, add an informational card to your wallet detailing where to find your advance directives if medical professionals respond to a scene at your home.
Your healthcare POA can use your advance directives to determine the best course of care for you based on your wishes. Ensure that the appropriate parties have access to your documents, so they know how to direct your care.
How Do I Find an Estate Planning Attorney Near Me?
You can search online for “estate planning attorney near me” or ask friends and family for recommendations. Read reviews online to pick a few potential law firms, then contact each prospective estate planning attorney and ask a few questions to determine if they’re a good fit for your needs when planning for incapacity. Some questions to ask include:
- Do I still need estate planning for a small estate?
- I already have a will. How often should I update it?
- I just got married (or divorced or separated)—what estate planning documents should I update?
The right estate planning attorney for you will answer your questions to the best of their ability before asking you to sign a retainer for giving legal advice.
Contact an Estate Planning Attorney in Palm Harbor, FL
For help with planning for incapacity in the Palm Harbor, FL area, call the experienced team at the Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A. We make sure our clients feel valued and heard today and for the rest of their lives. Call us at (727) 351-7057 or contact us online to schedule a consultation with our estate planning attorney.
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The information in this blog post (“post”) is provided for general informational purposes only and may not reflect the current law in your jurisdiction. No information in this post should be construed as legal advice from the individual author or the law firm, nor is it intended to be a substitute for legal counsel on any subject matter. No reader of this post should act or refrain from acting based on any information included in or accessible through this post without seeking the appropriate legal or other professional advice on the particular facts and circumstances at issue from a lawyer licensed in the recipient’s state, country, or other appropriate licensing jurisdiction.
Law Offices of Sherri M. Stinson, P.A.
522 Alt 19 #1
Palm Harbor, FL 34683