Estate planning is part of our Christian stewardship responsibilities. Being a good steward requires you to not only plan how your assets will be distributed at death, but also how personal and financial matters will be handled in the event you become incapacitated as the result of a stroke, accident or illness such as dementia.
“Incapacity planning” must be done while you have the mental capacity to understand what you are doing. It requires careful consideration of your particular situation to best assure that the documents used and the powers granted would enable the person you are empowering to do all that needs to be done on your behalf.
A key incapacity planning document is the durable power of attorney (“DPOA”). A power of attorney is “durable” if it states: “this power of attorney shall not be affected by the disability of the principal” or words to that effect. If those words are not in the power of attorney document it cannot be used if you become incapacitated.
Both financial management powers and personal decision-making authority can be granted under a DPOA. Certain powers must be specifically granted for the person you are empowering (your “attorney-in-fact”) to have the authority to take the designated action.
Including healthcare decision-making powers makes the DPOA a “full service” incapacity planning document.
Without prior incapacity planning an expensive and time-consuming court-monitored guardianship may be the only way someone can gain authority to manage your affairs and make decisions for you if you become incapacitated.
Be a good steward and plan for your potential future incapacity now!