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Why adults need to plan for incapacity, not just death

Estate planning is a very important act for the protection of an individual and their family members, but it is also a process that many people delay or avoid entirely. Even those who do decide that they need to have a will for the protection of their loved ones or their own peace of mind may create the simplest documents that they can and then never think about the matter again.

The best estate plans require occasional updates so that people can better ensure that they reflect their current circumstances and wishes. They also include a variety of different documents that can protect someone during a personal emergency in addition to those that will allow them to assist their loved ones after their death. Incapacity planning is a very important part of estate planning, as it protects people who experience medical emergencies or develop health issues later in life.

What does incapacity planning involve?

Addressing the possibility that someone will lose the legal authority to act on their own behalf involves thinking about what one may require in the future. Incapacity planning typically requires that people address their financial and medical wishes and needs.

Durable powers of attorney are important inclusions in comprehensive estate plans. These documents can grant someone the authority to conduct financial transactions and discuss medical matters on behalf of another individual. Durable powers of attorney will remain in effect even if the courts declare someone permanently incapacitated, meaning they can help someone avoid a court-ordered guardianship or conservatorship.

People often also want to put together advance directives. These documents will discuss someone’s medical preferences. From their personal stance on life support to the physician or facility that they would prefer to have provide their treatment, there are many medical wishes that people can clarify in writing well ahead of time so that their loved ones know what steps to take on their behalf after their incapacitation.

A proper estate plan that includes powers of attorney and an advance medical directive can give the person drafting the documents peace of mind and can provide crucial guidance for family members during what would likely be a very difficult time. Expanding an estate plan to include documents that take effect during incapacitation can be a smart move for those who want to safeguard their interests regardless of what the future may hold.