When you think about estate planning, you may think that all that needs to be done is to make out a will or trust to ensure that your assets are distributed to your liking after your death. Although this is an important part of it, estate planning considerations involve much more. One of the central aspects of it is incapacity planning. This addresses what happens if you are unable to make or express your wishes due to an injury or illness.
In Illinois, residents can address this possibility by executing an advance directive. An advance directive is typically not a single document, but a collection of them working in concert.
Health Care Power Of Attorney
An important component of an advance directive is a health care power of attorney. This document allows you to appoint someone to act as your agent. Your agent is empowered to make health care decisions on your behalf in cases where you are unable to do so. Unless you specify otherwise in the document, the agent may make any health care decision that you could have made yourself if you were not incapacitated. However, your agent is legally bound to follow any wishes you have made within the document. Once made, you may modify or cancel your health care power of attorney at any time. Of course, the power of attorney does not go into effect unless you become unable to make your own health care decisions.
Another vital component of an advance directive is a living will. This type of document specifies whether you want life-prolonging procedures (e.g. respirators etc.) used if you develop a terminal condition. Unlike a health care power of attorney, a living will only becomes effective if you have a terminal condition. Under the law, a condition is "terminal" if it is irreversible, incurable and any artificial life-prolonging procedures would only prolong your certain death. Like the health care power of attorney, a living will can be canceled at any time.
Durable Power Of Attorney
Your health care decisions are not the only thing that incapacity planning is concerned with. What will happen to your financial affairs is something that also must be addressed. To ensure that your finances are looked after should you become unable to manage them, it is important to execute a durable power of attorney. This document operates similarly to the health care version, except it does not concern health care decisions. Instead, your agent is empowered to handle financial affairs such as paying bills, signing checks, filing tax returns and other important transactions on your behalf. Like the health care power of attorney, your agent's power to act can be limited by provisions you insert into the document.
Speak To A Lawyer
With great advances made in medical treatment all the time, it is now more likely that you will survive many injuries and illnesses that were fatal in the past. However, many injuries or illnesses still leave people incapacitated. Because of this, it is more important than ever that everyone have provisions in their estate plans for such an occurrence. An experienced estate planning attorney can ensure that the necessary documents are in place to carry out your wishes.
Contact Our Law Firm To Learn More
For other questions regarding planning regarding incapacity, elder law considerations, or special needs planning, please contact Leonard F. Berg, Attorney at Law, in East Alton, Illinois, by calling 618-216-6681 or toll free at 888-353-6236.