Disability planning is an essential part of estate planning. Each and every person over the age of 18 needs disability planning and below are three reasons why.
1. To avoid loss control
Should you become disabled without proper disability planning in place, the court will take over your assets and make all financial decisions on your behalf. Your assets will be frozen so your spouse does not have access to them even if her name is on the accounts.
The court will name a guardian to manage your assets. This may or may not be your spouse or another loved one. The court often names an attorney as guardian and will continue to oversee your finances so long as you remain disabled. This is a total loss of control.
2. To avoid court guardianship
The loss of control during and following the court process of guardianship is described immediately above. In addition, guardianship proceedings are time consuming, expensive, and stressful for you and your family.
Like any court proceeding, the guardianship can take time to get on the docket. It is not a quick process. In the meantime, no one has authority to act on your behalf.
Guardianships are expensive; medical and social worker witnesses, lawyers, and the court need to be paid. Note that “lawyers” is plural. Your loved ones will likely need to hire an attorney to represent you and an attorney to represent their own interests.
Highly stressful may be an understatement. Your family members will likely have to testify and listen to the testimony of witnesses who will have to illustrate why you are incompetent to manage your assets and provide for your own care. You will hear all of this too.
3. To get what you want
If you want to be the one that defines your disability, chooses who will act on your behalf, and selects what kind of care you received during disability, you need disability planning.
If you don’t have up to date disability planning in place, consult with a qualified estate planning attorney.