When you think of incapacity planning, you may focus those thoughts on the need to plan for the possibility of developing Alzheimer’s or another age-related dementia condition. While demtnia can be the cause of incapacity, it is important to understand that incapacity is not limited to the elderly. On the contrary, incapacity can happen to anyone at any age as the result of a tragic accident or debilitating illness. This is why Incapacity Planning is such a common component in a comprehensive estate plan.
At Sterling & Tucker, LLP we have witnessed first-hand the havoc and confusion incapacity can wreak on everyone involved. Incorporating Incapacity Planning tools and strategies into your estate plan is the key to limited the adverse affects of your own incapacity should it occur.
Why Is Incapacity Planning Important?
Like many people, you likely equate the concept of becoming incapacitated with old age. What you may not realize though, is that incapacity could strrike during your working years as well. IN fact, just over 25 percent of today’s 20-year-olds will suffer a period of disability lasting five months or longer before they retire. 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 and bills? Who would make crucial health care decisions for you? Would would make personal decisions, such as where you will live? If end of life treatment becomes an issue, how can you be certain your wishes would be honored?
The simple answer to the above questions is that there are no certain answers. Unless you have an incapacity plan in place that ensures your wishes will be honored, a court may be forced to decide who will take control of your assets and who will make decisions for you.
How Can Incapacity Planning Help?
If incapacity does strike, you will not be in a position to control your assets or make decisions for yourself. Incapacity planning, allows you to decide ahead of time who you wish to take control of your assets and make those decisions for you, potentially avoiding a devisive court battle that could create a permanent rift in your family.
A common incapacity planning tool you may choose to use is a revocable living trust. As the Settlor of the trust you are able to appoint yourself the Trustee and appoint the person you wish to take control in the event of your incapacity as the Successor Trustee. Major assets are then tranferred into the trust and remain under your control as Trustee unless you become incapacitated at which point your Successor Trustee takes over automatically.
If you have strong opinion about end of life care, you may also wish to execute an Instructions for Health Care, Hawaii’s version of a Living Will, that lets you make end of life health care decisions for yourself now. You may also decide to include a Durable Power of Attorney for Health-Care Decisions which allows you to name someone to make health care decisions for you if you cannot make them for yourself.
At Sterling & Tucker, LLP our Honolulu Incapacity Planning attorneys are dedicated to helping you protect your assets and ensure that your wishes will be honored if you ever suffer a period of incapacity. Contact the team today by calling (808) 531-5391 or by filling out our online contact form.