Planning for incapacity in Missouri
Incapacity planning is important for Missouri residents.
A common mistake is assuming that estate planning is just about writing wills and trusts to make sure that your property is distributed according to your wishes after your death. Although addressing this issue will always be an important part of estate planning, an often overlooked part is incapacity planning. This area deals with the issue of what happens if you are unable to make medical decisions or handle your financial affairs because of an injury or medical condition.
In Missouri, it is possible to make your wishes regarding your medical treatment known by executing an advance directive. This is typically not a single document, but a collection of several documents, each working together to express your healthcare wishes.
A healthcare directive is very similar to a living will. However, under Missouri law, living wills only come into effect when your death is imminent and treatment is ineffective to significantly delay death. Healthcare directives, on the other hand, become effective as soon as you are unable to speak for yourself due to a terminal medical condition or unconsciousness.
Healthcare directives allow you to express which kinds of medical treatments should be withheld in this event. For example, you have the ability to specify that you would not want surgery, respirators and other life-prolonging procedures to be used if there is not a reasonable expectation of your recovery. Once you have executed a healthcare directive, you have the option to change it or revoke it at anytime.
Healthcare power of attorney
Because a healthcare directive cannot address every situation that may arise, it is also important to include a healthcare power of attorney. This document allows you to appoint an agent to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, should you become unable to make or communicate your healthcare wishes. If you wish, you can specify that your agent must make healthcare wishes according to what is specified in your healthcare directive. If your healthcare directive does not address a particular situation, you can direct your agent to decide based on the preferences that you have expressed to them (or based on their knowledge of your wishes).
In addition to making healthcare decisions on your behalf, your agent can also be empowered to:
- Check you in and out of hospitals and medical facilities
- Hire and fire medical staff responsible for your care
- Receive information concerning your care as well as review your medical records
Durable power of attorney
In addition to addressing your healthcare needs, it is important not to neglect your financial needs as well. A durable power of attorney allows you to appoint an agent to take care of these needs. Although you have complete control over what matters your agent has your permission to manage, most people executing this type of document empower their agents to pay their taxes and bills and manage their financial affairs (stocks, bank accounts, etc.) on their behalf. Like the healthcare power of attorney, this document goes into effect if you become incapacitated.
Speak to an attorney
To ensure that nothing is overlooked in your situation, it is important to seek the counsel of an experienced estate planning attorney during the planning process. An attorney can ensure that the necessary documents are in place to ensure that your healthcare and financial affairs are taken care of in the event of your incapacity.