All too often, incapacity is equated with the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s or another age-related dementia condition. While age and dementia can be related to incapacity, it is important to understand that incapacity is not limited to the elderly nor is it always caused by dementia. On the contrary, incapacity can happen to anyone at any age as the result of a tragic accident or debilitating illness. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Kirk Halpin & Associates, P.A. are committed to helping you incorporate Incapacity Planning into your estate plan.
Why Is Incapacity Planning Essential?
What would happen to you and your assets if you were to become incapacitated tomorrow? Before dismissing the possibility as unlikely given your age, consider the very real fact that you stand a one in five chance of suffering a period of disability or incapacity that lasts five months or longer before you reach retirement age. Incapacity is not confined to the elderly. A catastrophic motor vehicle collision, a debilitating illness, or a tragic workplace accident could result in your incapacity at any age.
If you were involved in a catastrophic work place accident tomorrow, causing you to become incapacitated for several months, what would happen to your assets? Who would pay your bills? Who would make crucial health care decisions for you? Who would make personal decisions, such as where you will live? If end of life medical treatment becomes an issue, can you be certain your wishes will be honored?
In the absence of an incapacity plan that answers all of these questions, a judge may end up answering them for you. If that happens, there is no guarantee that you will be happy with the answers. Moreover, your loved ones could end up in a contentious, and costly, court battle over the right to make personal decisions for you, the right to control your assets, or even the right to make life and death healthcare decisions for you. By failing to plan ahead, you effectively give up the right to make decisions for yourself.
How Can Incapacity Planning Help?
Incapacity planning allows you to decide ahead of time who you wish to take control of your assets and who should make crucial personal and healthcare decisions for you if you become incapacitated. By planning ahead for the possibility of incapacity, you eliminate the possibility of divisive litigation that could leave someone you would never choose in control of you and/or your assets.
Just as your overall estate plan is uniquely tailored to your goals, your incapacity plan will also focus on your specific needs. There are, however, some commonly used tools and strategies. For example, you may choose to execute a durable power of attorney that authorizes an Agent of your choosing to act on your behalf in legal matters. To authorize someone to make healthcare decisions for you during your incapacity, you will need to execute a specific type of advance directive known in Maryland as a “Selection of Health Care Agent.” Maryland also has a Living Will, referred to as “Treatment Preferences,” wherein you can make crucial end of life treatment decisions for yourself now. A revocable living trust is another popular incapacity planning tool that allows you to appoint yourself as the Trustee of the trust along with appointing someone as your Successor Trustee. In the event of your incapacity, control and management of the trust assets shifts automatically, without the need for court intervention, to the Successor Trustee chosen by you. Collectively, the incapacity planning tools and strategies you include in your comprehensive estate plan work together to ensure that your wishes are honored and to speak for you if you are unable to speak for yourself at some point in the future.
At The Law Offices of Kirk Halpin & Associates, P.A. we are committed to helping you protect what matters to you by incorporating Legacy Planning into your comprehensive estate plan. Contact the team today by calling 410-531-1700 or fill out our online contact form so we can help you get started today.