The process of estate planning typically involves a wide range of goals that require a variety of tools and strategies to accomplish. For the average person it can be confusing just trying to figure out what components to include in their estate plan. For example, do you need to include disability planning in your estate plan? As with all other decisions you make during the creation of your estate plan, you should discuss you need for disability planning with your New Hampshire estate planning attorney; however, for most people, disability planning is one of the most important components in their comprehensive estate plan. Before you can decide if you need to add a disability plan to your estate plan though, you need to know what disability planning is and why it might make a good addition to your estate plan.
Could You become Disabled?
When you think of being “disabled” you may think of having a lifelong condition such as cerebral palsy or, conversely, you may envision suffering from Alzheimer’s or another old age related dementia disease. While either of those scenarios does certainly fit the definition of “disabled,” the definition is much broader. For purposes of creating your estate plan, “disability” refers to any period of time when you are unable to make decisions for yourself and/or manage your affairs. With that in mind, your disability could be caused by a wide range of things, including a debilitating illness, workplace accident, or catastrophic personal injury.
Because people tend to think of disability as an old age issue, they often do not acknowledge that very real possibility that it could happen to them at any time. The reality though is that you stand a one in five chance of suffering a period of disability, or incapacity, before you reach retirement age. Of the 37 million people classified as disabled in the United States, about half of them are in their working years, meaning they are between the ages of 18 and 64. If you do suffer a period of incapacity, you stand about a 40 percent chance that your disability will last for five years or more.
If you do suffer a period of incapacity, who will manage your assets? Who will make decisions regarding your medical care? Who will decide where you live and what doctors you treat with during your incapacity? The answers to these questions, and many more, can be found in a disability planning component of your comprehensive estate plan.
What Might Happen Without a Disability Plan?
It is often easiest to explain why you need something by illustrating what will happen in its absence. As it applies to the need for disability planning within your estate plan, imagine the chaos and confusion that would likely ensue if you were suddenly incapacitated and no plans or provisions were in place to decide how to handle the situation. Your family member and/or loved ones would likely end up in court battling over the right to make decisions for you and/or manage your assets. The result could easily be a costly and time consuming court battle that could have been prevented had you simply included disability planning in your estate plan.
How Can Disability Planning Help?
For example, a revocable living trust is frequently used as a disability planning tool because when used correctly it can eliminate the possibility that your loved ones will end up in a prolonged court battle. Instead, you are able to name yourself as Trustee, and the person you would want controlling your assets in the event of your incapacity as the successor Trustee. Upon your incapacity, the successor Trustee will take over the duties and responsibilities of the Trustee without any need to go to court.
You may also choose to execute an advanced directive which may allow you to make important end of life medical decisions for yourself now so that you will know the are going to be honored when the tie comes. You may also have the ability to name someone as your “Agent” for healthcare. Your Agent will then have the legal authority to make medical decisions for you if you cannot make them due to your disability.
If you have additional questions or concerns regarding disability planning, contact the experienced New Hampshire estate planning attorneys at Debruyckere Law Offices by calling (603) 894-4141 or (978) 969-0331 to schedule an appointment.