A critical part of planning, beyond creating your last will and testament, is planning for the possibility that you may become legally incapacitated. Planning for incapacity ensures that your loved ones have everything they need to take care of you, if you become unable to handle your personal affairs. But what does it mean to be incapacitated, and why does it matter?
What Does it Mean to Be Incapacitated?
In simple terms, being incapacitated is when you become unable to manage your own affairs or perform daily tasks on your own. For example, you may not be able to perform tasks like cooking or cleaning, or are unable to pay your bills on time. If a court has determined you are legally incapacitated, it effectively means they have recognized you are no longer able to care for yourself without assistance.
How Might You Become Incapacitated?
There are many ways that someone might become legally incapacitated, temporarily or permanently. For example, you may suffer incapacity if you experience a severe illness or injury which keeps you in the hospital for an extended period of time, or which otherwise keeps you bedridden. People who suffer from degenerative diseases like dementia may also eventually become incapacitated once their conditions become bad enough.
What Happens if You Are Legally Incapacitated?
If you become incapacitated, what happens next depends on how well you have prepared. If you have an estate plan in place with advance directives like a power of attorney and a healthcare proxy, those should take effect and the people you have designated to act for you will begin doing so. If you do not have advance directives, or if directives are insufficient for your needs, it is likely your loved ones will need to seek guardianship from the court, which can be costly and time-consuming.
What Should You Do to Prepare?
While it is never possible to fully prepare for the worst possible circumstances, there are still things you can do to minimize the impact on you and your loved ones. To understand what may work best for you and your family, you should speak to a lawyer with experience handling capacity and estate matters. The attorney can go over all your options with you, and ensure your needs will be handled if you ever become incapacitated for any reason.
Whether for yourself or for a loved one, estate and elder law planning can be overwhelming and emotionally taxing. The legal professionals at Hobson-Williams, P.C. will advise you on the options available to you, and help you establish a plan that best suits your needs. Call (718) 210-4744 or visit our contact page to speak to one of our attorneys and learn how Hobson-Williams, P.C. can help you gain the peace of mind that comes from being prepared for the future.