Incapacitation: Providing In Case
It is possible to keep control over your health care and your financial affairs even if you become incapacitated and unable to speak for yourself. Taking the time to consider this subject now will not only help you, it will also be a gift to the people to whom you are closest. They will have a bad enough time if any of these events happen. They don’t also need the additional burden of trying to figure out what you would have wanted done about health care and how to keep your economic situation on course.
It only takes a few minutes to think about the various methods of keeping control and to obtain and execute the appropriate documents. The documents are available for free or for very low cost – and you don’t need an attorney.
In order to avoid later conflicts, it is advisable to discuss your wishes with your immediate family.
Control Over Your Health Care
If you need medical care and can't speak for yourself, medical personnel and health care facilities will do everything they can to keep you alive. This can go on indefinitely - at your expense.
State law will determine who can speak for you and make the necessary decisions. The person could be next of kin, or a total stranger appointed by a court. Many states have Surrogate Consent laws which specify which relative has the authority. Unless there is clear evidence of your intent, the appointed person will not likely be able to terminate treatment.
You can keep control over your health care when you are unable to communicate through legal documents known as "Advance Directives."
There are three different Advance Directives. Each one is complementary to the other. While each should be considered, the most important one to have is a Health Care Power of Attorney.
- Living Wills
- Health Care Power of Attorney
- Do Not Resuscitate (DNR)
Before executing any of these documents think about what your values are. They will in turn help you decide what you would want to happen in common situations, and situations that may arise because of your health condition.
Talk about the possibility of incapacity and your wishes with your family.
Control Over Your Finances
If you become incapacitated:
- You can exercise control by executing a Durable Power Of Attorney which gives a person the right to act in your place in financial areas that you define
- A court could appoint a guardian to take care of your finances. You can have a say over who is appointed guardian.
- You can put your assets in a trust or an entity such as a corporation or a limited liability company.
For more information, see:
Control Over Who Takes Care Of Your Minor Children
If you become incapacitated, who will take care of your children? If you have a spouse who is the natural parent with whom the children live, there is likely nothing you need to do. Otherwise, consider the alternatives, such as having a Guardian appointed, or arranging for a foster home, or even adoption.