You may try to be careful and thorough in planning for death, but are you prepared if you happen to become unconscious or otherwise incapacitated for a prolonged period? A lawyer can help you prepare for periods of incapacity as part of an overall comprehensive estate plan.
Your financial and other obligations do not stop simply because you cannot attend to them. Similarly, your minor children will still need an adult’s care and supervision even if you are not able to provide it. Contact Patrick, Harper & Dixon to learn how a power of attorney (financial and health care) can give you and your loved ones peace of mind during uncertain times.
What happens legally during periods of incapacity?
Suppose that you are involved in a car accident or workplace incident and fall unconscious. If you do not have a power of attorney in place, some of the most important decisions and most pressing needs may be made by individuals who don’t know your needs or desires.
Some of the decisions that may be made during this time include:
- Who will care for your children while you are not able to do so
- Financial decisions such as investments, deposits, withdrawals, and purchases or sales of assets
- Medical care you wish to receive while at the hospital
- Hiring professionals such as lawyers, accountants, or others to assist your family or loved ones in managing your affairs
Absent a solid plan and appropriate powers of attorney, two or more of your family members may be left arguing over who gets to make these important decisions for you. There may also be disagreement over what your desires are and how best to honor those wishes without your direct input.
At best, this situation causes incredible stress and anxiety for your loved ones; at worst, your loved ones are left squabbling and needing a court’s intervention to sort things out. If you do not have incapacity documents, then someone will be forced to file an incompetency and guardianship proceeding with the court. These proceedings are expensive, time consuming, and most often extremely unpleasant.
Do not leave your affairs to chance or cause unnecessary discord for your loved ones. Speak to the estate planning attorneys at Patrick, Harper & Dixon and see how easy crafting an incapacity plan can be.
Topics Covered by a Complete Incapacity Plan
When you and your lawyer sit down to create an incapacity plan, you will end up with one or more documents that cover several significant decisions that may need to be made without your input. A power of attorney or another document will give identified individuals the authority to do the following:
Act as Guardians for Your Children
If the child’s other parent cannot provide care for the child in your absence, you will want to identify a trustworthy person or couple who could. This person will have the ability to seek medical care for your child, make educational decisions relating to your child, and provide discipline and oversight.
Address Your Financial Affairs
In an incapacity situation, no one can access accounts or assets in your name only without a financial (also called “durable”) power of attorney. Even a spouse cannot access assets of an incapacitated person, except for joint bank accounts. For instance, a spouse cannot deal with your insurance company, access retirement funds, or even sign for your car or house. The individual you designate should be someone trustworthy, as this person will have the authority to access your bank accounts and other financial assets to pay your bills.
In periods of prolonged incapacity, this person will also manage your assets to provide for your long-term care and treatment. This power includes the ability to sell assets and apply for additional benefits.
Make Medical Decisions on Your Behalf
With a healthcare power of attorney and living will, you have the ability to tell doctors whether you wish for lifesaving treatment and resuscitation to be provided to you. Or you can choose to have treatment withheld under certain circumstances. A health care directive can give your medical team much-needed clarity about your desires.
Your incapacity plan can also designate a person to make other more routine medical decisions on your behalf when you are not able to do so for yourself.
Reviewing and Updating Your Incapacity Plan
Once you create powers of attorney, health care directives, and other incapacity planning documents, you and your attorney should regularly review and update these documents as your life situation changes. Some of the life changes that would necessitate a review of your documents include:
- Marriage or divorce
- Childbirth or adoption
- Acquisition of valuable assets or investments
- A change in your wishes or desires regarding your affairs, the resignation or death of a previous power of attorney, or changing religious beliefs
Once your initial incapacity plan has been crafted, updating it to reflect your current situation is easy with help from an experienced attorney. Speak to us at Patrick, Harper & Dixon to discover just how simple it is to keep your planning documents updated.
Contact Your Incapacity Planning Lawyer in Hickory with Patrick, Harper & Dixon
If you do not have a financial power of attorney or health care directive, or if it has been a while since you have reviewed them, now is the best time to reach out to Patrick, Harper & Dixon for help. We will make sure your needs will be met in the manner you would like when you are not able to speak for yourself.
Contact our offices today to discuss your specific circumstances.