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By John R. Merlino Jr. Esq.
Founding Attorney

Have you considered everything that can and should be addressed by an estate plan? It is much more than having a Last Will and Testament and providing for the proper distribution of your assets upon your death, although this is an important part of it. A strong estate plan is more comprehensive. It includes putting careful plans in place that help secure a future you want for yourself and your loved ones. This means planning for things such as incapacity.

Incapacity Planning

No one wants to think about death and no one wants to think about a time when he or she may be incapacitated to the point where communication may be impossible let alone management of different affairs. While death is inevitable, incapacity is not necessarily something that you will face in your life. It is, however, something you could face. This is true regardless of your age or health status. Life can throw us curveballs when we least expect them. Incapacity planning can put valuable protections and legal tools in place that can give you and your loved ones peace of mind in an otherwise uncertain future.

Whether you face a sudden or rapid decline in your health or you are injured, you will already want certain legal tools in place. For instance, a durable power of attorney may be invaluable in the event of incapacity. The durability feature of a power of attorney means it remains effective even if you, the principal, become incapacitated. The power of attorney can grant an individual of your choice powers as your “agent.” It can grant your agent a wide range of authority regarding conducting legal and financial business on your behalf should you become incapacitated.

Additionally, a health care power of attorney can be an essential part of incapacity planning. A health care power of attorney empowers the agent you have selected, the authority to make medical decisions on your behalf should you be unable to do so for yourself. A health care power of attorney can be particularly powerful when used alongside a living will which details your end-of-life care preferences as well as your decisions regarding use of life-sustaining medical equipment.

HIPAA authorizations should also be a part of planning for incapacity. HIPAA is a privacy law protecting others from knowing certain medical details about a person without a release, or HIPAA authorization circumventing this. You will, of course, want a HIPAA authorization for the agent under your health care power of attorney so that person can be updated on your medical status.

You may, for a number of reasons, incapacity planning included, want to consider setting up a revocable trust. A revocable trust allows you to transfer assets into the trust, but still retain control over those assets. In the event that you become incapacitated, however, the trust will continue to manage those assets for you. This can be an efficient and effective way to make sure your affairs are maintained no matter what circumstances you may face.

Estate Planning Attorneys

Do you have more questions about how to put a strong, comprehensive estate plan in place? Do not delay. Talk to the dedicated estate planning attorneys at Merlino & Gonzalez. Contact us today.

About the Author
John is a fierce advocate and the office guru for problem-solving and brainstorming. He guides clients through every stage of a real estate transaction from offer to contract, navigating through nerve-shattering home inspection and title clearance concerns, maintaining constant contact with lenders, conducting the actual closing, and continuing to advise clients with regard to any post-closing concerns.  John brings a practical and fair-minded approach to the process which has earned him the respect of his clients and peers.