How to Plan Ahead In Case a Loved One Becomes Incapacitated

It’s a situation nobody wants to endure, but which many Arkansas families eventually face: a parent, spouse, adult child, or other loved one becomes incapacitated and incapable of making financial or health care decisions. Whether your parents are in their late 60s and early 70s, and you’re already beginning to notice health issues or cognitive decline, or you’re earlier in the process and concerned because you witnessed big problems that your own parents encountered when caring for your grandparents, what should you do? What do you need to know? What’s the right planning strategy?

First, let’s examine the “why” of planning and then cover the “how.”

Here’s why:

When a loved one gets sick or develops cognitive impairments, his or her needs do not go away. If you’re a child, dependent or spouse, the burden of meeting those needs may fall to you. You’ll need to invest your own time, money and energy either directly (e.g. by driving your mom to her doctor’s appointments and the grocery store) or indirectly (e.g. by paying for a home health aide to do you mom’s laundry, cook and clean the house). Especially for those in the so-called “sandwich generation” – young parents forced to care for little kids and aging parents simultaneously – these pressures can be profound and unpleasant.

By creating plans while you’ll all of sound mind, you can avoid a great deal of pain, frustration and resentment. You can lower the costs of care by thinking through what’s necessary, inventing creative solutions, and writing down preferences. You can also build up a support network and create processes to ensure everyone’s comfort, safety and financial security. Finally, you can set up financial plans to minimize or absorb costs of care and make sure your loved one qualifies for benefits in the smartest way possible.

Here’s how:

  1. Think about which choices you or your loved one want control over.

What likely issues might arise if your loved one becomes incapacitated? What medical and financial issues are important to consider? Who can you count on for support and smart decision making?

  1. Review all the potential tools in your arsenal.

These might include:

  • Durable Power of Attorney. A “durable” power of attorney allows someone to make legal and financial decisions on behalf of another person, if that other person becomes incapacitated.
  • Advance Health Care Directive. Also known as a “living will” or “power of attorney for health care,” this document allows one person to make medical decisions on behalf of another but only if the principal cannot make such decisions for himself or herself.
  • Living Trust. Trusts are flexible legal arrangements that allow you to transfer ownership of assets. Your attorney can help you decide what trusts make the most sense to create and fund based on your needs, exposure and longer term goals.
  1. Find a qualified estate planning attorney to make the process simple and easy.

Our effective, compassionate lawyers can help you and your family plan ahead to prepare for retirement, anticipate or react to a medical crisis, or ensure a legacy. Contact us today at 800.827.7784 for a free consultation.