Life is unpredictable, and none of us can predict when we may become unable to make decisions for ourselves. Whether it is due to an accident, illness, or the natural process of aging, the possibility of incapacity is something we should all consider. Planning for incapacity involves determining who will make decisions on our behalf when we are no longer able to do so. In this article, we will explore the importance of planning for incapacity and the options available for choosing a decision-maker.
The Importance of Planning for Incapacity
Planning for incapacity is an essential part of overall estate planning. It ensures that our wishes are known and respected, even when we are unable to express them ourselves. Without a plan in place, decisions about our medical care, finances, and personal matters may be left in the hands of strangers or individuals who may not have our best interests at heart.
Choosing a Decision-Maker
When it comes to choosing a decision-maker, there are several options available. The choice depends on personal circumstances and the level of control and involvement desired.
1. Power of Attorney
A power of attorney is a legal document that grants someone the authority to act on your behalf. There are two types of power of attorney: general and durable. A general power of attorney is effective only while you have the capacity to make decisions, whereas a durable power of attorney remains in effect even if you become incapacitated.
2. Healthcare Proxy
A healthcare proxy, also known as a healthcare power of attorney, is a document that designates someone to make medical decisions on your behalf. This person will have the authority to communicate with healthcare providers and make decisions about treatment options if you are unable to do so.
3. Living Will
A living will is a document that outlines your preferences for medical treatment in the event of incapacity. It provides guidance to healthcare providers and loved ones about your wishes regarding life-sustaining treatment, organ donation, and other medical interventions.
If no power of attorney or healthcare proxy is in place, a court-appointed guardian may be necessary. Guardianship is a legal process where a judge appoints someone to make decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person. This process can be time-consuming, expensive, and may not result in the appointment of the desired decision-maker.
Making Your Wishes Known
Once you have chosen a decision-maker, it is crucial to communicate your wishes to them. This ensures that they understand your values, beliefs, and preferences when making decisions on your behalf. Having open and honest conversations about your wishes can provide peace of mind for both you and your decision-maker.
Regularly Review and Update Your Plan
It is essential to regularly review and update your incapacity plan as circumstances change. Changes in relationships, financial situations, and personal beliefs may require adjustments to your plan. By regularly reviewing and updating your plan, you can ensure that your wishes are accurately reflected and that your chosen decision-maker is still willing and able to fulfill their role.
Incapacitated but in Control
Planning for incapacity allows us to maintain control even when we are unable to make decisions for ourselves. By choosing a decision-maker and communicating our wishes, we can ensure that our values and beliefs are respected. Take the time to plan for incapacity today, and provide yourself and your loved ones with peace of mind for the future.