Plan ahead to prevent problems later.No one wants to think about the injuries, illnesses, and disabilities that could cause you to be incapacitated. However, when you don’t confront your fears and make plans for the possibility, you are not only making it harder on yourself, but you are placing an unnecessary burden on family members. Find out what can go wrong when you don’t plan for the bad things that can happen.

Expecting the Unexpected

The key to planning for incapacity is accepting that bad things can happen to anyone—but by being proactive, you can spare your loved ones and avoid some of the worst outcomes. You can make the healthiest possible life choices and still wind up in a situation where you are unable to make decisions for yourself because of an illness or injury caused by:

  • Accidents or violence. Car crashes, workplace accidents, falls, pedestrian accidents, and criminal attacks happen to people every day. The injuries sustained in these incidents can cause unconsciousness and coma. When healthcare providers need permission to perform certain procedures, and you are unable to provide it, your care could be delayed.
  • Bad surgical outcomes. Even a routine procedure can have a bad outcome. If you have not made your wishes about life support, long-term care, blood transfusions, organ donation, and other issues known before surgery, a family member or judge may make the wrong decision on your behalf.
  • Alzheimer’s or dementia. Once you begin to show clear signs of dementia, it may be too late for you to sign a legal document designating how you want to be cared for and who you want making decisions for you. As a result, you could end up in a situation where you are fully aware of what is happening, but you don’t have the power to make decisions for yourself. 
  • Strokes. The average age of a stroke patient in the U.S. is 65, and nearly 25 percent of stroke victims are younger than that. A stroke can leave you unable to communicate and at the mercy of a family member or the court to decide on medical interventions, long-term care facilities, and more.

Unfortunately, we don’t get to choose the challenges we face in the future, so preparing for anything that may come is the best way to protect ourselves.

Avoiding a Worst-Case Scenario

When you meet with a Louisiana estate planning attorney, you will discuss the steps you can take now to ensure that your wishes are known if you are unable to advocate for yourself. Accidents and medical emergencies happen to people of all ages, so you are never too young or too old to file the following kinds of documents:

  • Powers of attorney. In these documents, you name trusted representatives to make healthcare and financial decisions on your behalf if you are unable to do so. 
  • Advance directive. Also called a living will, this document makes your wishes known about end-of-life care and whether you want your care team to take extreme measures in an effort to save your life. 

Simply telling a loved one what you would want to happen if you become incapacitated will not carry legal weight with a doctor or hospital. It is important that you not only complete these documents, but that your loved ones know what they say and where they are stored in case of an emergency.

Determining Decision-Making Authority

If you have properly executed legal documents in place that designate a person to make healthcare decisions on your behalf, that person will be contacted by healthcare providers. Your power of attorney should also name a back-up in case your primary designee is unavailable. 

If you do not have a power of attorney, the following people will have the power to make decisions, in this order:

  1. A judicially appointed curator or tutor
  2. Your spouse
  3. Adult children
  4. Parents
  5. Siblings
  6. Other relatives

Getting a judicial order and identifying the other people on the list can take time, endangering your recovery. You may also be subject to decisions made by someone you would not have chosen.

The SVHC Law Estate Planning Team Will Guide You Through the Process

Our experienced estate planning attorneys are sensitive to your concerns about the future. We will present all of your options for protecting yourself and your interests if you become incapacitated and make sure all of the necessary documents are in order. Contact us in our New Orleans office today to schedule a meeting with our team.