What happens tomorrow is not always predicted. You need to plan now in case you can’t act on your own behalf later. Things happen in our life that we are not always expecting. One day everything is fine and the next, everything has changed.

Three years ago I was hit by a truck while crossing the street. Needless to say, the outcome was not pretty. For close to six months I was out of commission, two and a half months were spent in intensive care, a month in rehab, and then recovery at home. One minute everything was fine, the next, not so much. When you get taken offline and can’t manage your affairs you need to have a backup plan. In my case, I had a durable power of attorney and a health care surrogate in place naming a backup person to take over my financial and health care decisions. The key here is that it is impossible to fix the problem after it has happened. Planning ahead is imperative.

Now, most of you are probably not going to be hit by a literal truck, but other life events can have the same effect. One of the most common is a stroke. Usually, without notice, this cerebral event occurs. The effects can be devastating including physical incapacity and significant cognitive impairment. A stroke attacks the brain cutting off vital oxygen to the brain. Millions of brain cells die every minute during a stroke leading to permanent brain damage, disability and often death. Close to 800,000 people a year in the United States will have a stroke.

Strokes are generally unpredictable.

For those at higher risk, preventative measures such as a healthier diet, exercise, and cholesterol management can reduce the risks. Still often times there is no warning.
Strokes are the fourth highest cause of death in the United States. It is estimated that 130,000 people will die in 2018 because of a stroke. The number of people incapacitated is many times higher. Aphasia, the inability to speak, is a common effect of a stroke. About a million people in the United States have aphasia, mostly caused by a stroke.

If a sudden incapacitating event happened in your life would your loved ones be able to make financial and medical decisions on your behalf? Note, just because you are married does not automatically give your spouse the ability to be your backup. Just because you said I do does not mean he or she can. Without a backup plan in place, your family will have to go through a guardianship court proceeding to get someone to be appointed to stand in for you. This process can be time-consuming, psychologically and emotionally painful and quite costly.

By having two critical legal documents in place, you can have a backup person able to step in without the need for court intervention. These two documents are a durable power of attorney and a health care surrogate. The first allows someone to manage your financial affairs and the other appoints someone to speak to the doctor and hospital on your behalf.

These documents do not cost a lot of money and potentially save you tens of thousands of dollars. However, not all documents are created the same. In my practice, about 70 percent of the powers of attorney I review are fatally flawed. When getting your documents drafted make sure the attorney has significant experience with the problems of incapacity. And please do not rely on some documents you downloaded from the internet. The problem of incapacity and planning to avoid its effects is much too important to be solved by some random form you found using Google. For further insight into incapacity planning see the power of attorney section on our website at FLMediaid.com or call our office for a free consultation and document review.

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