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What does it mean to plan for incapacity?

On Behalf of | Feb 15, 2024 | ESTATE PLANNING - Wills

Imagine a future where, due to unforeseen circumstances, you are unable to make decisions for yourself. While it is not a pleasant scenario to consider, it is a critical aspect of life planning that often goes overlooked. Planning for incapacity means taking proactive steps to protect your wishes and interests even if you cannot articulate them due to illness, injury or other incapacitating conditions.

Incapacity can strike anyone at any time. Without proper planning, you leave the fate of your health care decisions, estate management and even your personal welfare to chance, or worse, to court-appointed individuals who may not know your values or desires.

Legal tools for incapacity planning

When you set out to plan for potential incapacity, you equip yourself with several legal tools designed to safeguard your autonomy and well-being. These tools allow you to appoint trusted individuals to act on your behalf and to outline your preferences for health care and management of affairs. Here are legal tools you can incorporate into your estate plan that can enable you to prepare for incapacity:

  • Durable power of attorney: A durable POA is a document that allows you to name an agent to act on your behalf and make important decisions for you if you cannot do so. You can designate different agents for your finances and medical care. Unlike a standard power of attorney, it remains in effect even if you become incapacitated.
  • Advance directive for health care: In Georgia, this combines the living will and the power of attorney for health care into one document. You can specify what medical treatments you would want or not want and appoint a healthcare agent to ensure your healthcare providers follow your wishes.
  • Trusts: Setting up a trust can provide a way to manage your assets during incapacity. A successor trustee you select would step in to manage the trust’s assets according to the terms you have set out in the trust document.

Beyond the legal documents, planning for incapacity includes communicating your personal wishes to those who may be involved in your care. Do you have specific thoughts about long-term care facilities, in-home care or treatments that align with your beliefs? These are conversations to have with your appointed agents and loved ones to ensure they understand your preferences.