The importance of preparing for incapacity in an estate plan

Georgia residents might wonder what they need to do to ensure that their loved ones can make decisions on their behalf in case they are incapacitated. In many cases, appointing a family member as agent under a power of attorney can accomplish this goal.

Failing to do so may result in problems later. For example, one person's mother developed Alzheimer's disease. Although the person had prepared a power of attorney several years earlier, the document was never property signed and notarized. The person was able to pay bills on a jointly owned bank account but was not authorized to sell the house, and this was necessary to pay for the mother's care.

In a situation like this one, it would be necessary for a person to go to court and ask to be made conservator of the incapacitated individual's person and estate. The former covers medical decision-making and the latter covers financial matters. However, this process is more complex and expensive than a power of attorney. For example, for a conservatorship, it is necessary to have detailed financial records. With a power of attorney, the agent could have just gone ahead with the sale.

Making an estate plan is not just about choosing how a person's assets will be distributed after death. It is also about preparing for incapacity and end-of-life care. All of these are difficult topics that people tend to put off discussing, but the costs can be high if they are delayed for too long. An attorney can be helpful in explaining the types of documents that are appropriate for a client's particular set of circumstances.

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