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No One is Exempt from Planning for Incapacity

Couple holding handsIncapacity planning is about designating how you want to be cared in the event that you lose your cognitive ability. It’s hard to face, but it’s absolutely necessary, says Barron’s in “Three End-of-Life Estate Plan Lessons.” Most people don’t give much thought to the issue until it is too late to do it correctly. That means added expense and leaving money on the table for Uncle Sam to collect in unnecessary taxes.
Let’s look at some important lessons about incapacity planning:
1. Inform your surrogates and agents 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. What often happens is that 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.
2. Select some strong surrogates. These are agents or advocates to whom you grant durable power of attorney. They will have control of your welfare. This includes handling your finances and paying your bills. Therefore, in addition to having great trust in your surrogates, you have to be sure that they’re able to manage your finances. Discuss the day-to-day administrative and financial tasks that they may need to monitor for you. Some people will divide the responsibilities into two jobs: a healthcare surrogate who will decide your medical decisions and a financial power of attorney to maintain focus on your financial affairs.
3. Don’t give a child who’s emotional and fragile the responsibility of cutting off your life. Many people select a child as their medical surrogate, but he or she may not be the one best-suited emotionally to make tough medical decisions. That involves decisions about withdrawing life-prolonging procedures or the intake of food, if the situation arises. That can be a huge emotional challenge.
Reference: Barron’s (November 8, 2016) “Three End-of-Life Estate Plan Lessons”

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