Plan for Living - Capacity Planning
The first step in any estate plan is to plan for life, not death. People are living longer than ever today as the average life span increases with advances in medical care and healthier lifestyles. However, living longer means a higher likelihood of severe illness due to advanced age, such as Alzheimer’s, stroke, dementia and other age-based conditions. In other words, the odds are higher than ever that, at some point, you will not have the capacity to take care of yourself.
Because of this reality of modern life, capacity planning is crucial for living. A series of legal documents can protect you, your family and your estate when you need help the most. The tools to accomplish this task include:
Durable Power of Attorney. The purpose of a durable power of attorney (DPOA) is to designate someone to act on your behalf to make property and financial decisions for you. A regular power of attorney expires when the signor becomes incapacitated. A durable power of attorney continues to be effective evan if you become incapacitated. So, if you become too ill to manage property, funds or assets, your DPOA will empower your attorney-in-fact to manage your financial and other interests for you.
Living Will. A Living Will is designed to your wishes in the event of a health crisis or life ending situation. Living wills should be specific, as Florida statutes provide very few definitions. We customize the language in our Living Wills to define our client’s wishes concerning nutrition, religious restrictions, instructions on the use of pain management and any other care you desire or wish to decline. The goal is to give you as much control as possible and to be able to communicate your wishes when needed most. Then, when you are no longer able to directly communicate your wishes due to a debilitating condition, the Living Will provides instructions to others as an expression of your wishes. The Living Will should name a trusted individual to express your wishes. As a tip, include a “self-proving affidavit” to make the Living Will look more official. A self-proving affidavit is a statement made by a witness that the rules of executing the document have been followed. If the document ever needs to be proven at court, this affidavit may be helpful
Health Care Powers of Attorney and Health Care Surrogate Designations. By designating a health care power of attorney or surrogate, you will name one or more individuals who can make important health-related decisions in the event of your incapacity. The distinction between a Living Will and a Health Care Surrogate Designation is that, in a Living Will, you are expressing your intentions concerned certain, defined events. In a Health Care Surrogate Designation, you are deferring a health-related decision to someone you trust. By having both documents, you will be able to ensure that decisions concerning your health are being made as consistently as possible with your predetermined wishes.
By utilizing these basic capacity planning documents, you will protect yourself, your family and your estate from any number of predictable AND unforeseen circumstances during your life.