Ask A Pro: What documents do I need if I become incapacitated?

Planning for a disability or incapacity is a very important part of your overall estate plan. Most of us, at some point in life, will require assistance with health or financial matters whether from an emergency or from a progressive decline. Planning ahead with the right documents can allow your family to make these decisions on your behalf.

You should execute an Advanced Healthcare Directive that will allow the named person to make health decisions on your behalf. This person, known as a healthcare representative, can make decisions regarding care and treatment. Your healthcare representative can also decide about end of life care including withholding or withdrawing of treatment. After death, a healthcare representative is charged with making decisions about donation of remains, funeral planning, and obituary information. Indiana’s healthcare consent law was overhauled in July, 2021 and your existing healthcare documents may need reviewed in light of the law changes.

In addition to naming a healthcare representative, you should sign a healthcare privacy release (HIPAA Release) that will allow those named in the document to talk to doctors and access healthcare information. You should consider including both your spouse and children in this document.

You should also sign a Financial Power of Attorney. Typically, the named person, known as an attorney-in-fact, will have authority to pay bills, make financial transactions, sell assets and handle all financial matters. Some Power of Attorney documents require that a doctor determine, in writing, that the person who signed the document is incapacitated before it takes effect. We generally advise making the document effective upon signing as it will be more useful when the time comes. In any event, you should not appoint someone who is not totally trustworthy as your attorney-in-fact. If you have concerns about needing long- term care in the future, you may also want to consider expanding your power of attorney to allow for Medicaid or VA benefits planning when recommended by your attorney.

Make sure that you plan ahead. Failing to get financial and healthcare documents executed prior to the onset of an incapacity can result in significant cost and delays in a time of need. In our office, we recommend these documents for all clients regardless of age or health status.