If you became mentally incapacitated, for instance due to Alzheimer's disease, dementia or another serious illness or injury, how would you want to be cared for? If you could not communicate with your doctors, who would you want to speak on your behalf? And who would you trust to manage your money, pay your bills and take care of other important matters?
The following estate planning documents can help you communicate your answers to these questions in order to make sure your wishes are carried out if and when the time should ever come:
- Durable power of attorney. A legal document called a durable power of attorney enables you to name another person to act on your behalf in legal and financial matters if you can no longer oversee those decisions yourself. If you become incapacitated without preparing a durable power of attorney, someone must be appointed by a court to make those decisions for you, and it may not be the person you would choose.
- Advance health care directive. An advance health care directive, sometimes called a living will, is another important estate planning document that you can use to prepare for potential incapacity. This document allows you to indicate how you would like to be cared for if you lose the ability to communicate your wishes and identify which medical treatments you do or do not wish to receive.
- Health care agent. In your advance health care directive, you also have the opportunity to appoint another person to make decisions for you about your medical care if you cannot communicate your wishes directly. In California, this person is called a health care agent, but sometimes may also be referred to as a health care proxy or medical power of attorney. Since even though most detailed advance health care directive cannot specifically address every potential medical decision that must be made, it is important to authorize a health care agent you trust to use their own best judgment in unforeseen circumstances.
Preparing for the possibility of mental incapacity not only benefits you by providing the peace of mind of making your wishes known, it also benefits your loved ones by sparing them the unnecessary emotional turmoil and potential conflict of having to make those decisions without your input.
Act now, for your own good and theirs
Although Alzheimer's and dementia are typically associated with old age, it is important to keep in mind that mental incapacity can affect people of all ages, often without warning. At any age, a serious accident, major illness or other unexpected event could interfere with your ability to make important decisions on your own. Therefore, it is wise to take steps now to make your wishes known, rather than putting it off until later, when it may be too late. Contact the Law Offices of Connie Yi, PC, to discuss any questions you may have about planning for incapacity and for assistance documenting those wishes in your estate plan.