How would your care go if you became incapacitated?

There is no denying that your will is a vital part of your estate plan and probably forms the cornerstone of it. However, with people here in Florida and elsewhere living longer, the question of incapacitation needs to have an equally important place in your plan.

Do you know what the end of your life will look like? Do you know what you want or don't want doctors to do for you? Do you know who will make difficult health care choices for you if you cannot? These questions need answers now, while you still have the ability to control the answers. Otherwise, your fate could be up to the courts and someone you may not truly trust.

What to do to prevent this

You can retain control over the care you will receive at the end of your life or if you become incapacitated and choose who will make life and death decisions for you as well. Powers of attorney for health care and finances are estate documents that help you accomplish these goals. Any number of illnesses or injuries could incapacitate you, which means that you cannot make decisions on your own behalf.

You can decide how much or how little power a person you trust has over your finances and property. You can make sure that your powers of attorney do not go into effect until or unless at least one doctor determines you are incapacitated. If you only want someone to pay your bills but not sell your property, you can make that choice. The point is to have a plan in place just in case.

How you go about it

Many would say the most important part of executing powers of attorney is choosing the person or people who will make decisions for you. Before you sign on the dotted line, you need to discuss the situation with the person you want to make your agent, or attorney-in-fact. He or she needs to understand the role you want this person to play on your behalf. Even though it's often seen as a privilege, the job comes with immense responsibilities.

By completing these steps, you can gain peace of mind that you will receive the care and assistance you need if the time comes. Timing is important, however. After you receive a diagnosis of dementia, Alzheimer's disease or some other mentally incapacitating illness, or you suffer a mentally disabling injury, it will be too late since you may lack the legal capacity to make these arrangements.

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