When discussing estate planning, I have many conversations about avoiding probate, protecting assets from taxes, guardianship and asset protection for minors, and just generally about what happens after someone passes. The topic that seems to be much more rare is, "What if something happens to me while I'm still alive?"
I'm not sure if the thought of our own incapacity is too daunting - even more disturbing to contemplate than our own death - but it's an often avoided conversation. And although it may fall into the ever-growing category of unpleasant topics, it is actually an important one. Don't get me wrong, it is equally important to consider and plan for the many other topics that come up, but incapacity planning should be at the top of that list (or at least somewhere on it).
When you actually do think about it, what are some of the concerns: Who will take care of me if I can't take care of myself? Who will make sure I am ok? Who will look out for me? Who will make sure everything gets paid for? Who will make my medical decisions?
Well, incapacity planning can consider those questions and more. It;s not about having all of the answers, but more about having a plan in place for the overall issue. If you become incapacitated and can no longer make your own decisions, wouldn't you want a person of YOUR OWN choosing to step in a take over? To decide where you will live? To decide how much money you will get, and who will take you to the doctor, and who will make sure you are treated well and not taken advantage of? Who will make sure your legacy, in whatever form, is passed on?
While a Will can plan for your assets after you pass, and can even designate who you would appoint as your Conservator, it does not guarantee that person will be appointed, nor does it allow for an easy transition when the time comes. The combination of a trust, power of attorney documents, and the proper health care documents can all work together to make sure that you are taken care of by the person of your choosing should you become incapacitated, while making the transition seamless and straightforward. At a time when you might not be at your best physically or mentally, wouldn't a seamless plan for your care be the best option?
These are all things to consider. Talk to an attorney, ask questions, and get some answers. If you avoid the topic for too long, at some point it may be too late to help yourself.