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Incapacity Planning is vital were you to have a sudden illness or life-threatening injury.  More people are thinking about the implications of the possibility of a bad bout with COVID-19 and where that would leave them legally and financially.  The good news is there are steps you can take to make a plan for incapacity, whether temporary or permanent.  The bad news is many people procrastinate dealing with the issue until it is too late.  

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What do we mean by “Incapacity Planning?”

Incapacity planning is a process that involves the preparation of customized legal documents to authorize people you trust to handle your health care choices and financial decisions on your behalf in the event that you are not able to do so yourself.  There are two primary reasons why this type of planning is so important:

  • To ensure that health care decisions are made on your behalf in a way that is consistent with your beliefs and preferences.
  • *To make sure that any financial decisions made while you are incapacitated reflect your wishes and are made by a person you trust.

When do people begin to think about an incapacity plan?

Often times people think about incapacity planning if there is a “triggering event” in their life.  Examples may include the following:

  • A move to a new state.   People who move to Florida and intend to stay may prefer to have Florida documents executed.  Although an out of state power of attorney or will is not invalidated by the move, it might be easier to get a Florida specific document activated when needed.
  • A life event change.  Divorce, death of a spouse or a child’s death may make new documents necessary.
  • A new diagnosis.  Someone newly diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s or any other debilitative disease may realize that their time for planning is shorter than it was before.
  • Retirement.  Sometimes a person thinks about planning for the rest of their life and their possible disability when they retire from their career.

Who can benefit from incapacity planning?

Everyone can benefit!  When you are going through the planning process, you may feel that you are focusing a lot of time and effort on yourself and your preferences.  But the truth is that you are doing a huge favor for your loved ones.  Without an incapacity plan, your loved ones could be left in the uncomfortable position of being unable to help you or make decisions on your behalf.  With an incapacity plan in place, you erase any uncertainty and provide legal authority within which your friends and family can act on your behalf.

What documents are involved with incapacity planning?

All the planning in the world is useless unless you have completed the proper legal paperwork needed to back up your plans.  The following are some important documents that everyone should have:

  • Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA).  This document can continue after your incapacity and grants broad decision-making powers to a person of your choosing, known as your Agent
  • Advance Directive for Health Care (ADHC).  This document includes the provisions of a living will and a designation of health care surrogate.  You can decide, in advance, which life-sustaining treatments you want provided or withheld if you are at end of life or dependent on machines.  Naming your surrogate allows that person to see your medical records and make medical decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so.
  • Trust.  There are a variety of trusts, some revocable and some irrevocable.  Working with an experienced Florida elder law attorney you can decide which if any of these types of documents could be helpful in your situation.  Some of the features the different trusts may accomplish include avoiding or minimizing probate, Medicaid planning, and planning for minor beneficiaries or special needs beneficiaries.  

In addition to the documents listed above, there are others that may apply to your unique situation.  If you are not sure whether you have all the relevant documents you need, ask an experienced elder law attorney.  You may discover you have omitted critical paperwork or have documents that no longer meet your needs.  

Planning for your future today is vital to ensuring that your best interests are protected if you are incapacitated.  The best way to make sure you are prepared for the future is to hire a Florida elder law attorney.  He or she will guide your through the planning process and review all of your documents to confirm that they are comprehensive, current, and recognized under Florida law. With the guidance of an elder lawyer, you can experience peace of mind knowing that your plans and wishes are clearly and legally stated. At Burzynski Elder Law, we have experienced attorneys and legal staff to help you make sure your documents are current and comprehensive.  If you need more information, call us at 239-434-8557 or visit our website.