Incapacity can strike anyone at any time. Although your chance of becoming incapacitated increases with age, a tragic accident or serious illness could leave you incapacitated tomorrow. While there is no way to emotionally prepare for the possibility of incapacitation, you can be legally prepared by incorporating an incapacity plan into your overall estate plan.
St. Louis Missouri Incapacity Planning: Why It Is Necessary?
If a catastrophic car crash leaves you in a coma tomorrow, who would make healthcare decisions for you? Who would pay your bills and maintain your home? Who would care for you on a daily basis if you awaken from the coma? Who would decide what to do with your assets should you remain in the coma for an extended period of time? In the absence of an incapacity plan the answer to most of these questions and many more is unknown. Even if you are married your spouse may not automatically be entitled to make all the decisions and control all of your assets. What frequently ends up happening is that a family member or loved one must turn to the courts to become your legal guardian and/or conservator. Not only does this waste precious time and financial resources, but if more than one person petitions for guardianship/conservatorship a court battle could follow. Worst of all, by failing to plan ahead you give up your right to have a voice in the matter. A court could end up appointing someone you would never approve of to control your assets or to make decisions for you.
How Can Incapacity Planning Help Me?
By incorporating incapacity planning strategies and tools into your overall estate plan you are able to ensure that the individual(s) you choose will control your finances and assets if you are unable to do so yourself someday. Of equal importance, you are also able to decide ahead of time who will make both healthcare and personal decisions for you should you be unable to make them yourself one day.
Incapacity planning typically involves creating and executing a variety of legal documents that provide the legal framework to ensure that your wishes are followed should you become incapacitated. Some common incapacity planning components include:
- Advance directives – in Missouri, a Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare is a document that allows you to appoint someone as your agent who will be able to make healthcare decisions for you should you be unable to make them.
- Joint Accounts – allows a co-owner easy access to assets but does not give them the legal authority to sell, lease, or encumber the asset should it be necessary.
- Power of attorney – gives you the ability to appoint an agent to act on your behalf in legal matters. Must be durable to survive your incapacity.
- Revocable trust – allows you to name yourself as trustee and another trusted individual as successor trustee. The successor trustee automatically takes over if you become incapacitated. You can place some, or all, of your assets into the trust, providing an easy legal shift of control should you become incapacitated.
Taking the time now to create an incapacity plan ensures that your wishes are honored should the worst happen down the road. Contact the St. Louis Missouri incapacity planning attorneys at Purcell and Amen to get started on your plan today by calling (314) 966-8077 or by filling out our online contact form.