Though it isn’t always easy to think about, it’s very possible that you, or a close loved one, might one day lose the ability to communicate or make choices. Should you become incapacitated, your friends and family will need to know what your choices are and what you would want to happen to you. Incapacity planning is the process through which capable adults make decisions that will apply if they one day lose the ability to make choices or communicate.
Taking Care of Yourself
Do you want to receive CPR if you have a terminal medical condition? Do you have any religious or personal preferences for how you’re cared for while hospitalizes? Do you want your doctors to do everything they can to prolong your life if you are comatose or in a persistent vegetative state? If you become incapacitated, who do you want to manage your financial affairs for you?
Developing an incapacity plan will allow you to answer all of these questions, and more. If you don’t have an incapacity plan in place, you leave it up to your family to make important decisions for you. If your family cannot agree, or if you don’t have family who can make these decisions, it’s very possible that a California court will have to get involved.
Taking Care of Others
What would happen to your children if you became incapacitated? Who would take care of them? Who would look out after their financial interests?
What happens to your parents if they lost the ability to make decisions? Would you have the right to make decisions in their behalf? Who gets to decide?
Many incapacity planning issues arise when people in our lives become incapacitated or need someone else to take care of them. It’s quite common, for example, for someone to face a situation where a relative, spouse, or loved one becomes incapacitated but doesn’t leave behind any type of incapacity plan. In this situation, that person’s friends and loved ones will want to do what is best for them, but there is no clear guidance from the incapacitated person. Such situations can require going to court and asking the judge to name someone as a conservator. In other situations, an incapacitated person might have left behind a plan, but one that could have significant gaps or problems.
Making Choices Now
When it comes to incapacity planning, it’s important to realize that, as long as you are a capable adult, you have control over what will happen to you if you should one day lose your ability to make choices. By acting now and developing an incapacity plan, you can rest assured that you, your family, and your interests will be protected should the worst happen. If you haven’t already done so, contact the Northern California Center for Estate Planning and Elder Law so we can help you develop an incapacity plan that fits your needs.