Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Planning for Incapacity

I always say that estate planning is three things, planning for illness, death and taxes.  Three things none of us will avoid.  When it comes to illness, or incapacity, I think the following documents are essential (if you live in Wisconsin):

  • power of attorney for health care;
  • living will;
  • power of attorney for finance; and
  • authorization for final disposition.
The power of attorney for health care empowers someone to speak for you when medical decisions need to be made and you are not able to respond.  A living will, also called a declaration to physicians, conveys your thoughts on end of life care to your medical team (i.e. if you are at the end of life, do you want a respirator).  The power of attorney for finance appoints someone to handle financial matters if you cannot.  Do no assume that an adult child or spouse can simply stand in for you.  They most likely cannot sign your taxes, talk with your employer about payment, handle matters related to insurance, and the list goes on.  The final form is one that says who is in charge of your burial, and allows you to note desires, such as cremation.  Remember, authority under the power of attorney ends the moment you die.  Nothing is re-established until a will is filed, which might be weeks.  This last form fills in the gap, and oversees your burial.

No, these are not cheery matters to address.  But they are critical.  You never know when another driver will cross the center line and put your world into free fall.  It happened to a relative of mine last week.  Take charge, take control, put things in place now instead of waiting for chaos to hit.

No comments: