Incapacity Planning refers to the legal steps you can take to designate others to help you, should you become incapacitated and unable to help yourself.
It is not just something to think about ‘later, when you get older’. Accidents or illness can occur at any stage of life, and having a well-articulated plan helps your family and friends to step in and help you seamlessly and (importantly) according to your wishes.
You can choose to appoint or designate persons to handle your financial and legal matters, to make personal and health care decisions for you, or to do both.
A few good reasons for having an incapacity plan in place include the following:
Financial and Legal Matters:
Choosing the person(s) with the knowledge and expertise to help you, because:
- You have substantial assets in your sole name
- You have business interests that would need prompt hands-on management
- Your immediate family members might not be available or suitable to make these kinds of decisions for you
Personal and Health Care Decisions:
Choosing the person(s) whom you know will speak on your behalf and follow your wishes, because:
- You have strong views about the kind of medical treatment(s) you would accept
- You want to give guidance to your family so they don’t have to ‘guess’ during a difficult time
- You have a blended family and you want to minimize the chance of disagreements among them
There are certain documents that can be created that will serve different purposes and can be customized to meet your own particular circumstances and wishes. These include:
Enduring Power of Attorney
You appoint one or more persons to manage your financial and legal affairs, and he or she agrees to act on your behalf.
Representation Agreement – you make an agreement with one or more persons, instructing them to make health care and personal care decisions for you. Health care decisions can be about major or minor treatment issues; personal care decisions can be about where you live, socialize, and other personal matters.
Advance Directive – you give instructions (that can be provided to health care providers) about treatment, consent or refusal of treatment and end of life wishes.
Nomination of Committee – you indicate who you would wish to be appointed as your ‘committee’ (guardian) if that became necessary.
Put simply, Incapacity Planning follows the Boy Scout rule… Always Be Prepared.
By preparing the right Incapacity Planning documents for your circumstances, you will have the comfort of knowing that your voice can still be heard even if it has been muted by illness or accident and you need someone to assist you temporarily or on a long-term basis.