General Planning for Disability or Illness

As part of the estate planning process, your attorney should help you plan not only for your death, but also for also the possibility that you might become disabled at some point during your lifetime.  Among the topics you should discuss with your attorney are the following:

Disability insurance.  You should evaluate whether you have adequate assets and/or insurance to maintain a reasonable standard of living should you ever become unable to work due to disability.  Although estate planning attorneys are not insurance professionals, a general discussion of disability planning should be part of the estate planning process.

Management of assets during disability.  If you ever become disabled, you might not be able to manage your assets or property on your own.  Your estate planning attorney should talk to you about the steps you can take to ensure a seamless transition should you ever need someone else to take over the management of your assets, either on a short-term or a long-term basis.  These steps might include signing a durable power of attorney, funding a trust during your lifetime, and/or adding a joint owner to some of your assets or accounts.  A good estate planning attorney will explain these options to you, and help you decide which ones would work best for you, given your particular set of circumstances.

Health care decisions.  There might come a time when you are unable to communicate health care decisions for yourself – for example, if you are extremely ill, if you are suffering from dementia, or if you have been in an accident and lost consciousness.  It is important to have a document in place naming someone who will be authorized to make health care decisions on your behalf if you are ever in such a situation.  In Massachusetts, this document is called a “Health Care Proxy.”  If you have strong feelings about how much medical intervention you would want if you were ever terminally ill or permanently unconscious, you can add language to your health-care proxy specifying your wishes in this regard.