It’s important to have someone else in place to make certain decisions for you, such as using a medical power of attorney to give your agent the ability to make your medical choices. You may also use a power of attorney to give that individual the ability to make legal or financial decisions on your behalf. This is a very common part of estate planning.
At the same time, you likely want to keep your own ability to make these decisions for as long as possible. This is why you need to use a springing power of attorney, which only springs into effect if you become incapacitated. As long as you can make your own decisions, you still have the right to do so, and no one else can take that from you. But if incapacitation occurs, then someone else does have the legal right to act on your behalf – with your best interests in mind.
What does incapacitation mean?
The only problem that sometimes crops up here is when people disagree on what incapacitation means. It may be very obvious. Perhaps you’ve had a heart attack or a stroke. You are in a medically induced coma while doctors decide what to do next. You clearly can’t coordinate with those doctors or tell them what type of treatment you want, so your agent does it for you. You get the treatment and recover, and everything has worked as expected.
But what if you have a degenerative brain disease? Maybe it’s getting harder for you to make important decisions. But where is the line that makes it impossible? There are some cases where an elderly person will still believe they can make all their own decisions, but their heirs may argue that a cognitive disorder means that they are now incapacitated.
As you can see, these are complex situations. Planning in advance is key, so be sure you know what steps to take.