Making decisions for how you want to be cared for while you are still able to choose is a gift to yourself and your loved ones. If you’re unable to convey how much intervention you want, or if you want no care at all, your children and medical professionals will have to make the decision for you. According to Barron’s in “Three End-of-Life Estate Plan Lessons,” not planning for incapacity creates a heartbreaking situation for your heirs and could also undo a great deal of your estate plan.
Let’s look at some important lessons about incapacity planning:
Inform those with a role in your estate plan about your wishes immediately. You should also explain your thought process to them so they have complete information to carry out your wishes if necessary. Often, in cases with little communication, it looks like this: Dad has a fall or an illness that puts him in rehab. The family reacts by shifting into crisis mode, and they make important decisions relying on the information readily available instead of the complete picture.
This is one of the reasons why we at Family Estate Planning Law Group strongly advocate for a Family Care Meeting. It gives clients the opportunity to outline their estate plan and wishes to loved ones, fiduciaries and those with a role in the estate plan before a crisis arises. We’ve found that these meetings lead to far more effective estate plans because clients’ loved ones and fiduciaries have met the estate and financial planning team and are familiar with not only the role they must play, but the professionals who will assist them.
Select strong surrogates. These are agents or advocates to whom you grant durable power of attorney. They will have control of your welfare. This may include handling your finances and paying your bills. Therefore, in addition to having great trust in your surrogates, you have to be sure they’re able to manage your finances. Discuss the day-to-day administrative and financial tasks they may need to monitor for you. Some people divide the responsibilities into two jobs: a healthcare surrogate to make medical decisions and a financial power of attorney to handle your financial affairs.
Consider the capacity of the people you are assigning these difficult tasks to. A fragile individual who has never been able to advocate for themselves and who can’t make a decision without checking with three other people, may not be the best person to make major healthcare decisions. A trusted family friend or a person you know is capable of making good choices, even in difficult circumstances, is a better person to name as your medical surrogate.
The decision to remove life support is not an easy one. Have a conversation with the person you name so they fully understand your wishes. You should thank them in advance for their willingness to take on this responsibility. It should not be given or accepted lightly.
For more information on this and other estate planning topics, explore our website and contact us to schedule your consultation today!
Reference: Barron’s (November 8, 2016) “Three End-of-Life Estate Plan Lessons”