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How people can protect themselves in the event of future incapacitation

On Behalf of | Jun 25, 2023 | Estate Planning

When someone turns 18 in South Dakota, they are a legal adult with full responsibility for their own actions and personal choices. The process of becoming a truly independent adult is often a slow transition while someone completes their education or develops a career. Once someone starts living on their own, they usually plan to do so indefinitely. Generally, people expect to continue having independent control over their lives until the day they die.

However, some people survive long into their golden years, and others suffer debilitating injuries or medical events. Someone might experience some degree of cognitive decline, either simply due to advanced age or because of a medical condition like Alzheimer’s disease. The possibility of future incapacity is something that most adults could benefit from addressing in certain ways ahead of time.

Some older adults may eventually end up subject to a guardianship, which will give someone else control over their finances and even their healthcare. Advance planning can protect someone from an involuntary guardianship later in life. What does incapacity planning typically involve?

Choosing someone to act as agent

One of the most important steps in the incapacity planning process is the selection of the appropriate agent. The adult putting together the plan will name someone they trust to assume financial and/or medical authority when they become incapacitated.

Some people name separate agents for medical and financial matters, while others choose a single person to handle their affairs. Durable powers of attorney will retain their  authority even after someone becomes incapacitated and no longer has the ability to create new estate planning documents. Once someone has added powers of attorney to their estate plan, they know there will be someone to manage their affairs if they become unable to do so.

In scenarios where a testator has very specific personal medical care that they receive, they may also need to put together an advanced directive explaining their preferences on pain management, life support and even anatomical gifts. Proper planning ahead of time will help someone connect with medical care that aligns with their wishes and will also protect them from the financial hardship that could result from an inability to manage one’s own resources.

Creating an estate plan that addresses future medical needs in addition to someone’s death can give them the most robust protection possible regardless of what the future holds. Seeking legal guidance to better understand one’s options is generally a good place to start.