Estate planning should accomplish much more than simply designing a roadmap to be followed when you are gone for the divisions of your estate assets. In fact, a well thought out estate plan should also help grow and protect those assets while you are alive as well as protect you and your loved ones from things such as your incapacity. In order to illustrate the need for a more comprehensive estate plan, an estate planning attorney discusses the need for incapacity planning.
Incapacity Planning Is Not Just for the Elderly
Like many people, you may think of incapacity as something only the elderly need for worry about. You may envision someone suffering from Alzheimer’s, for example, when you think of incapacity. While Alzheimer’s and other age related dementia conditions certainly do cause a victim to suffer from incapacity, you most certainly do not have to be elderly to become incapacitated. On the contrary, incapacity can strike anyone at any age as a result of a catastrophic motor vehicle accident, a debilitating illness, or even a tragic workplace injury. In fact, something most people do not realize is that one in five people will suffer an incapacitating event prior to reaching retirement age. Imagine, for a moment, that you were to become incapacitated tomorrow. Can you answer the following questions:
- Who would make healthcare related decisions for you? Imagine that a very difficult decision must be made regarding your medical treatment while you are incapacitated and that there are risks involved in both potential treatment options. Who would you want to make that decision?
- Who would handle your finances? Whether you have a modest estate, or you have already amassed your fortune, the assets you do have are likely the result of your hard work. Consequently, you likely do not want to put them at risk by allowing just anyone to control them if you are unable to do so yourself at some point in time in the future. As with healthcare decisions, however, someone not of your choosing could end up having control of your assets during a period of incapacity if you fail to plan ahead.
- Who would make day to day decisions for you such as where you will live and with which doctors you will treat? If your incapacity lasts longer than a few days, decisions such as these will have to be made by someone. Who should make them?
- Who would pay your bills? The same is true for your bills. Someone must be in charge of your day to day finances while you are incapacitated. Absent a plan, you don’t know who that will be.
What Can Happen without a Plan in Place
The need for incapacity planning can be best illustrated by considering what can happen without a plan in place. The reality is that if you are incapacitated, someone must make all of these decisions for you and take control of your assets and bills. If you failed to designate someone, a court may have to make the decision. Not only might the court choose someone you would never choose, but your family and loved ones could end up in a divisive court battle that leaves a rift in your family that can never be fully healed. The best way to ensure both that your wishes are honored should you ever become incapacitated and prevent a court battle among your loved ones is to include an incapacity planning component in your overall estate plan.
For more information, please join us for an upcoming FREE seminar. If you have additional questions about incapacity planning, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at German Law by calling 701-738-0060 to schedule an appointment.