How to make sure your estate is in good hands if you’re incapacitated

This content is sponsored by The Collins Firm

WASHINGTON — Getting older is a certainty in life, but proper planning can ensure that your estate is in good hands as you age and the right person is leading decisions about your care, said Attorney Mike Collins with the Collins Firm.

Incapacity planning is extremely important, and a vital part of the estate planning process, Collins said. Without an incapacity plan in place, a judge can appoint someone to take control of an incapacitated person’s estate and make medical and decisions on their behalf, he added. In some cases, “the court may appoint a total stranger … if you don’t have a guardian,” he said.

That’s why it’s important to choose your own decision maker in advance, Collins said.

“If you’re incapacitated and legally unable to make decisions — whether they be for your health care or financial circumstances or what kind of care you’re going to receive — all those decisions are going to be made by someone other than yourself,” Collins said.

So Collins recommends a few steps, starting with identifying someone you want to make decisions on your behalf. This is a person who can make legal, financial, business and health care decisions if you’re not able.

A tool in the process will include an advanced medical directive — a legal document that specifies what actions should be taken should you become incapacitated. The person whom you’ve identified to make your decisions will follow these rules, and serve as a point person regarding decisions should you become incapacitated.

Another tool to consider is the durable power of attorney, which means you can appoint an agent to make legal decisions on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. Collins recommends naming someone who has authority to manage business and financial affairs.

“You want to empower someone to act on your behalf,” Collins said. “You have to be careful about the power of attorney though because you’re giving someone a lot of authority, so you want to make sure you pick someone you trust to do this.”

Sarah Beth Hensley

Sarah Beth Hensley is the Digital News Director at WTOP. She has worked several different roles since she began with WTOP in 2013 and has contributed to award-winning stories and coverage on the website.

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