Yesterday, we began our ongoing series on basic estate planning questions by looking at the legal concept of an estate. Today we are going to look at another aspect of an estate by looking at what happens to a person when he or she becomes incapacitated.
Incapacity planning is one of the more essential parts of every basic estate plan. Regardless of your age or circumstances, every capable adult in the state of California needs to take the time to create a proper incapacity plan.
What does “incapacity” mean?
You probably take it for granted that you get to make all of the day-to-day decisions that go with being an adult. What do you want to eat? Where would you like to live? Who would you like to associate yourself with? You probably make hundreds of these types of decisions without really thinking about the legality of it all.
This is because the law presumes that you are a mentally capable adult. You don’t have to ask anyone’s permission before you make a decision because the law assumes you have that ability.
Unfortunately, this ability to make decisions is not permanent, and it’s entirely possible that you might one day lose it. When events take place that make you unable to make these kinds of decisions, the law says that you are incapacitated.
What is an incapacity plan?
Should you one day become incapacitated and lose the ability to make choices, those choices will nevertheless have to be made. You’ll still, for example, have to pay your bills, make decisions about where you want to live, and make all the other choices that you have to make in your life. If you are no longer legally capable of making choices, do you know who will make them for you? What kinds of choices will that person make for you?
These questions, and those similar to them, are the kinds of questions that incapacity plans allow you to answer. Essentially, an incapacity plan is a collection of choices you can make now, while you are still able, that will apply should you one day lose your decision-making capabilities.
How do I make an incapacity plan?
You make an incapacity plan by creating a variety of legal documents. Each of these documents allow you to answer one or more of the important questions that will arise if you should become incapacitated. Whether by appointing representatives who get to make decisions on your behalf, or by answering important questions directly, your incapacity plan will allow you to be secure in the knowledge that your choices will be respected.