Contemplating incapacity can be as anxiety-inducing as thinking about death. The following estate planning tools can ensure that you do not end up in legal limbo due to a mental or physical disorder that renders you unable to manage your affairs or make decisions.

  • A revocable living trust (described above) can be written so that it takes effect when you are incapacitated. You can define “incapacity” to specify exactly what triggers a successor trustee to take over management of the trust’s accounts and property. The trust can even lay out the procedures to follow for determining incapacity.
  • A financial power of attorney is the legal authority, granted by you to someone else, that allows that other person to manage your financial affairs and property without the need for court involvement. The individual granted a power of attorney can handle bank accounts, pay bills, sell property, run a business, apply for public benefits, pay taxes, make investments, and oversee insurance and retirement accounts on your behalf. They are legally required to act in your best interest.
  • A medical power of attorney is the healthcare equivalent of a financial power of attorney. It designates a person who is authorized to make medical and personal care decisions for you if and when you are unable to make those decisions. A medical power of attorney also gives a trusted decision maker the authority to manage your protected health information.
  • A HIPPA release lets designated persons access your protected health information. Your medical decision maker may already have this authority through a medical power of attorney, but others may want to be included on a HIPPA release so they can stay informed about your condition.
  • A living will describes the types of medical treatment you do—and do not—want to receive to keep you alive, as well as your preferences for pain management, organ donation, and other medical decisions. The use of a ventilator, tube feeding, palliative care interventions, and resuscitation techniques are typically addressed in a living will.