The incapacity plan you create when you graduate college will probably be different than the one you create after you get married, have a child, or learn that you have a chronic illness. Like other financial and estate planning tools, incapacity plans need to change and adapt to you over time.
1. Change in Relationship Status. If you get married, go through a divorce, or enter into a romantic relationship outside of marriage, you’ll want to make sure your incapacity plan reflects that. For example, let’s say you get divorced and enter into a romantic relationship with a new partner. Your old plan likely includes your former spouse as part of your plan. Whether you want to name another family member or your new partner as your representative, you’ll need to change your plan.
2. Having a Child.Having a child changes you, often in ways you cannot expect. When you consider your child’s future, you must consider the possibility that you will not be there to be a caregiver, provider, or parent. Your incapacity plan needs to address what you want to happen if you lose your ability to raise or care for your child. Choosing and naming a temporary guardian, ensuring someone has the ability to use your funds to pay for child care needs, and ensuring your child is cared for and educated in a way that you approve will require some careful planning.
3. Having a child become an adult. When your children are little, as a parent, you have complete control over their financial and medical lives but the minute your child turns 18 your control evaporates. Having your young adults sign incapacity documents will prevent you from having to go to court to make important healthcare and financial decisions. And when they go off to college make sure they sign all documents giving you, as their parent the ability to speak to college administrators for academic, healthcare and emotional issues.
4. Starting a Business. A business has its own set of demands, and if you’re the person in charge, your business will suffer if you lose capacity. Business owners need to develop incapacity planning tools that not only protect their interests, but also the interests of the business. You’ll need to be prepared to transfer your duties to someone who can manage them responsibly.
5. Moving to a New State. Because each state has its own laws about incapacity planning, you’ll want to at least review your plan should you move to a new state. Making an appointment to talk to a local estate planning attorney to
talk about what you need to change is always a good idea following a move.
6. Becoming Injured or Ill. Anytime you suffer a significant injury or learn you have a serious illness you’ll want to review your incapacity plan to make sure it accurately reflects your health care needs. For example, if you’re diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease or dementia you’ll need to be sure that your powers of attorney name a health care surrogate of whom you are confident can manage your affairs as your cognitive abilities degrade. You may also want to make different choices about what kind of health care you wish to accept or refuse, especially if you have a terminal illness.
7. Time and Aging. As you get older, your medical and personal circumstances can change without warning. Many age-related changes are inconsequential, but if it’s been several years since you last updated your incapacity plan, you need to go back and look things over.
8. Changes in the Law: Because laws can change, you will want to make it a point to contact your estate planning attorney once a year or so to ask about any changes you might need to know about. (Your attorney may send you notices if any legal changes take place, but it’s a good idea to contact them to make sure.) If you have documents that are currently in effect, such as financial powers of attorney, you may need to update or renew them every three to six months to make sure that third-parties won’t have any questions about their validity and currentness.
9. Anytime You Change Your Mind. If you’re going to create an incapacity plan, you need to be sure your plan reflects your needs, desires, and choices. If, for example, you feel more comfortable naming your sibling as your medical representative over your spouse, you should have a plan that reflects this desire. Similarly, if you ever change your mind, you need to change your plan.
Incapacity planning isn’t pleasant. It’s not fun to contemplate your mortality or potential incapacitation. But it is something you need to do.
Creating an incapacity plan is part of being a responsible adult. If you don’t have a plan, you need to create one as soon as possible. Making a plan will give you the opportunity to think about what is most important to you and your life, and how you can best protect not only yourself, but those closest to you. Need to make a plan or change a plan? Call us at the Foster Legal Advisory Group today at 505-238-8385.