Most people equate the concept of estate planning with creating a plan for the distribution of their estate assets after their death to ensure that loved ones are provided for in their absence. This is certainly understandable as that is one of the primary functions of the average estate plan. When you think about protecting and providing for your loved ones, however, your death is not the only reason to have a plan in place. What happens if you become incapacitated tomorrow? Do you have a plan in place that protects you and your loved ones for that potential scenario? If not, can estate planning lawyers help you with incapacity planning?
I’m Still Relatively Young. Do I Really Need an Incapacity Plan?
This is a question that estate planning lawyers hear frequently. People are often under the (incorrect) assumption that incapacity is a problem that only affects the elderly. While it is true that your odds of becoming incapacitated will increase with age, incapacity can strike at any time and to anyone. Consider the following facts and figures:
- Just over 1 in 4 of today’s 20-year-olds will become disabled before they retire.
- Over 37 million Americans are classified as disabled; about 12% of the total population. More than 50% of those disabled Americans are in their working years, from 18-64
- An otherwise healthy 35-year-old female has a 24% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during her working career.
- An otherwise healthy 35-year-old male has a 21% chance of becoming disabled for 3 months or longer during his working career.
- The average length of disability for that 35-year-old female or male is 82 months.
While you can certainly hope that you never suffer an incapacitating event, the reality is that a catastrophic car accident or a debilitating illness could render you incapacitated tomorrow. If that happens, are you prepared? Can you answer the following questions?
- Who will make healthcare decisions for you if you cannot make them?
- Who will take over control of your assets and property?
- Who will handle paying your bills and monitor your finances?
- Who will make personal decision for you such as where you will live?
If you cannot answer these questions, you are not prepared and you need to consider adding an incapacity planning component to your overall estate plan.
Can Estate Planning Lawyers Help Me with Incapacity Planning?
A well drafted and comprehensive estate plan should accomplish a wide range of inter-related goals. Creating a blueprint for the distribution of your estate assets when you are gone is just one of those goals. For many people, incapacity planning is an integral component in their overall estate plan. Consequently, estate planning lawyers can certainly help you create your incapacity plan. Exactly what you include in your incapacity plan will have to be decided during a consultation with your estate planning attorney; however, a popular incapacity planning tool is a revocable living trust. As Settlor of the trust, you name yourself as the Trustee, and create the trust terms. You also name the individual you wish to take over control of your assets in the event of your incapacity as the Successor Trustee. You then transfer major assets into the trust. In the event of your incapacity, the person you named as the Successor Trustee will take over your role as Trustee automatically. By doing so, he or she will also gain control over your most important estate assets. Because you are the Settlor of the trust, and have the ability to create the trust terms, you are even able to define “incapacity” any way you like and/or include steps to be required in order to establish your incapacity. Whether you decide a revocable living trust is right for your plan or not, the important thing is to include an incapacity planning component in your estate plan.
For more information, please download out FREE estate planning worksheet. If you have additional questions or concerns regarding a incapacity planning, or you wish to get started creating an incapacity plan for your estate plan, contact an experienced estate planning attorney at Hedeker Law, Ltd. by calling (847) 913-5415 to schedule an appointment.
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