What is Incapacity Planning?
Incapacity Planning, also referred to as life planning, is planning for the unfortunate circumstance of becoming unable to control your finances or health decisions. This could be brought on by a car accident, illness, or old age. If you don’t plan for your incapacity, you run the risk of the Probate Court interfering and acting inconsistently with your intended desires.
The two major realms of incapacity planning are control over finances and control of health decisions. There are legal documents that can be executed to give that control to specific person(s) whom you feel would make the best decisions on your behalf. Making your own choices is always better than surrendering your decisions to a court who has never met you.
Planning Financially with a Durable Power of Attorney
If you become mentally incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated. The truth is that for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition a Probate Court to declare you legally incompetent.
This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the Probate court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the court every year and show how they are spending and investing the money.
If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you, you must designate a person or persons that you trust in proper legal documents, including a durable Power of Attorney, so that they will have the authority to withdraw money from your accounts, pay bills, take distributions from your IRAs, sell stocks, and refinance your home.
Keep in mind that a Last Will & Testament does not take effect until you die and a Power of Attorney may be insufficient.
Planning Medically with a Health Care Proxy
In addition to planning for the financial aspect of your affairs during incapacity, you should establish a plan for your medical care.
The law allows you to appoint someone you trust – for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself.
You can do this by using a Health Care Proxy where you designate the person to make such decisions. In addition to a Health Care Proxy, you should also have a Living Will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
Ensuring Your Incapacity Plan is Up-to-Date
As time passes by and your life changes, your incapacity plan will become stale and outdated. It is important for you to have your incapacity plan reviewed every few years or after a major life event (such as a divorce or a death) to ensure that the plan will work the way you intend it to work if it is ever needed.
Questions Our Clients Often Ask
At the Socius Law Firm, we believe estate planning is a process where you design a blueprint that:
- allows you to control your property when you are alive and well
- enables you to control how your & your loved ones are cared for in the event of incapacity
- allows you to control how your assets are managed, used and passed in the event of your death
- enables you to save every last tax dollar, professional and court cost.
While this is typically accomplished through a set of estate planning documents, it is crucial to keep in mind that estate planning is not only about the documents themselves. It is about making a series of informed decisions and taking a series of thoughtful actions, all of which are designed to ensure that in the event of your incapacity or death, things will transition in the way you would have hoped, with the least disruption possible and with minimal or no intrusion by the court.
Learn more about the Socius Law Firm's unique 6-Step Estate Planning Process.
Both a Will and a Trust are useful estate planning documents, but understanding their differences will help you decide which is right for your particular estate planning objectives and personal circumstances.
Find out why a Will alone may not be the best choice for you and your family by viewing our side-by-side comparison chart.
As the foundation of the modern estate plan, a Revocable Trust helps you control how your assets are managed and used while you are alive and well, if you become incapacitated, and after you die.
A Living Trust enables the coordinated distribution of all of your assets, while maintaining the greatest degree of asset control and flexibility - both during your lifetime and after death.
There are many important benefits of Trusts beyond federal and MA estate tax considerations such as:
- Avoiding probate and ensuring a smooth transition
- Protecting assets
- Planning for incapacity or disability (without Court oversight)
- Controlling distributions to beneficiaries (give what you have…to whom you want, the way you want, when you want)
- Maintaining 100% privacy
We offer four levels of comprehensive estate planning - each highly customized to meet your unique family situation. Plan fees are dependent upon your personal values, goals and objectives.
From starter plans primarily for families with young children and little in the way of financial wealth, to more robust plans for well-established families who want to avoid probate, provide asset protection and eliminate or minimize estate taxes, we offer estate planning levels to meet your needs and objectives. Estate planning fees generally range from $1,200.00 up to $8,500.00 on the high end for an extensive estate plan. We also offer several advanced estate planning options for those who need even more planning.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have established a unique estate planning process where we listen and learn about you, your family and personal circumstances, thoroughly explain the estate planning options available to you and custom design, implement and maintain a comprehensive estate plan that reflects your specific concerns, fears, goals and objectives. Our process is designed to ensure your confidence at each step along the way, from the initial planning meeting through the delivery and implementation of your completed plan and beyond. The ultimate outcome of our estate planning process is to give you peace of mind.
We all like to put off important tasks and wait until the very last minute, this includes estate planning. There is always “something” that would be more fun to spend time doing or money on. However, honestly there are few things that are more important and none that are a better investment for yourself and your family. Take the first step….
Probate is a process whereby the Probate Court supervises the transfer of assets from a person who has passed away to the new lawful owners.
Probate is generally a long, frustrating and expensive process. Much of our practice is devoted to using trusts and other planning tools to help our clients avoid probate altogether. However, for families who did not do probate avoidance planning, we are frequently hired to guide them through the probate process.
If you become mentally incapacitated, you won’t be able to manage your own financial affairs. Many are under the mistaken impression that their spouse or adult children can automatically take over for them in case they become incapacitated. The truth is that for others to be able to manage your finances, they must petition the Probate Court to declare you legally incompetent.
This process can be lengthy, costly and stressful. Even if the court appoints the person you would have chosen, they may have to come back to the Probate Court every year and show how they are spending and investing the money.
If you want your family to be able to immediately take over for you without Probate Court interference, you must designate a person or persons that you trust with the use of a Durable Power of Attorney.
A Health Care Proxy allows you to appoint someone you trust - for example, a family member or close friend to make decisions on your behalf about medical treatment options if you lose the ability to decide for yourself. Without a Health Care Proxy, your loved ones would have to petition the Probate Court for authority to make medical decisions on your behalf.
In addition to a Health Care Proxy, you should also have a Living Will which informs others of your preferred medical treatments such as the use of extraordinary measures should you become permanently unconscious or terminally ill.
At the Socius Law Firm, we have developed an expertise in planning for the well-being and care of children should the unthinkable happen. We call this advanced legal planning — Kids’ Safeguard Planning.
Kids’ Safeguard Planning is based on the premise that a Will alone is simply not enough to protect minor children should both parents die or become incapacitated.
If you are a parent of minor children, your estate plan needs to include Kids’ Safeguard Planning to ensure your children will always be taken care of by the people you want, in the way you want, and never put in a situation you wouldn’t like.