Have you considered who would manage your financial afffairs if you became incapacitated? Married couples are sometimes under the impression that their spouse will automatically be given access to all the assets. This may not be the case. Assets that are titled jointly may be easily accessed but that is not always the case. Take for instance real property that is jointly titled. If the well spouse desired to refinance, obtain a secured loan or sell real property that is jointly owned a legal representative would have to be appointed to sign in behalf of the incapacitated spouse. A power of attorney may not adequately authorize an agent to handle these transactions. Then there is the issue of a retirement account or pension benefits solely in the name of an incapacitated spouse. In these cases, the well spouse, child or parent woul likely need to seek a court’s permission to access your assets taking a significant amount of time and money.
Often, when someone becomes incapacitated, assets that are needed by loved ones to maintain the household or pay bills are inaccessible when most needed. Even worse, a dispute can arise as to who should manage the assets which can prolong the process of obtaining a court order.
There are, however, a variety of estate planning tools that can be used to avoid the need for court intervention. Executing a comprehensive durable power of attorney or creating a revocable trust may also be viable options. With just a small amount of pre-planning on your part you can avoid a lengthy and costly court process in the event of your incapacity.