You may not want to focus on the possibility of your own incapacity, but you should take the time to do so. In the event that you do become incapacitated, either as a result of the natural process of aging or because of a sudden illness or accident, someone will need to manage your money. Will it be someone who you want managing your money? That depends on whether or not you take the time now to create an incapacity plan.
If you are married, you may want your spouse to manage your money in the event of your incapacity. You may even be under the impression that your spouse will automatically be allowed to manage your money simply by virtue of being your spouse. This is not necessarily the case. For anyone other than your spouse, they will almost certainly not be allowed access to your assets absent pre-planning on your part or a court order.
Without proper pre-planning on your part, anyone wishing to take control of your money or assets will need to petition a court for the authority to do so. This can cost both valuable time and money. Worse, it could result in a dispute if more than one person petitions the court for authority.
By taking time now to consider the possibility of your incapacity and creating a plan with the help of your estate planning attorney, you can decide now who will manage your money and what parameters should apply if you ever become incapacitated. Although each plan may use different incapacity planning tools, creating joint accounts, a durable power of attorney and/or a revocable trust are all popular tools that you may incorporate into your plan.
Levine & Furman, LLC is a member of the American Academy of Estate Planning Attorneys.