Many people take great pains to create and execute an estate plan that will dictate what happens to their assets upon death, yet they do not dedicate the same time and attention to incapacity planning. While deciding who will receive your assets when you die is important, deciding who will handle your finances and make decisions on your behalf in the event you become incapacitated is of equal importance.
If you become incapacitated as some point during your life as a result of a tragic accident, a illness or simply due to the again process, you may be incapable of making healthcare, financial and/or day to day decisions for yourself. Incapacity planning usually focuses on trying to create a plan that will cover this possibility and prevent the need for court involvement. If you have not created an incapacity plan, the chances are good that your loved ones will need to seek court approval in order to step in and make these decisions on your behalf.
An incapacity plan can involve a number of legal tools. State laws determine which tools are available and may cause the names of some tools to vary. A durable healthcare power of attorney, sometimes referred to as a living will or advanced directive, appoints someone to make healthcare decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Joint title to accounts and/or property as well as trusts can also be utilized as incapacity planning tools in order to give a family member or loved one immediate access to your finances without the need to seek court approval.