Q: What does “disabled” mean?

A: In the estate planning world, the term “disabled” refers to an individual’s incapacity or the inability to manage day-to-day business affairs such as managing and protecting assets, signing papers, paying bills, and filing taxes. “Disability” or “incapacity” doesn’t mean you’re laid up on the couch with a bad back; instead, it means that you don’t have the physical and mental capacity necessary to manage your personal business.

Q: How can I be sure to stay in control of my property if I become disabled?

A: There are two options for maintaining control during a period of disability; and, often, we recommend the use of both: power of attorney and revocable living trust.

Q: How do I avoid being kept alive by machines if I’m brain dead?

A: A living will is used to avoid medical heroics such as life support at the end of life.

Q: Who will make healthcare decisions for me if I can’t make those decisions myself?

A: Your agent under your health care power of attorney has the power to make healthcare decisions for you if you are unable to make those decisions yourself.

Q: Who will take care of my finances if I become disabled?

A: Disability is the perfect example of why you need to appoint trusted helpers. If you have an up-to-date power of attorney, the named agent may be able to manage your finances, including paying your bills. Unfortunately, if you don’t have a legally documented disability/incapacity plan, your loved ones will battle it out in court and a judge will decide who’s in charge.

TIP: Be sure to name a contingent agent in case your primary agent is unable or unwilling to serve. The same with disability trustees. Be sure to name successor disability trustees in case your named trustees are unable or unwilling to serve when the time comes.