If you are ill or in poor health, you need an estate plan as soon as possible. You might be surprised to learn that your decisions will not necessarily be honored by doctors or family members if you are sick in the hospital. Writing down those decisions and setting up a structure for carrying them out is the best way to protect your autonomy.
Capacity and Estate Planning
According to Illinois law, people making wills or signing contracts must have capacity to act. The capacity to make a will is the “mental ability to know and remember who are the natural objects of [one’s] bounty, to comprehend the kind and character of [one’s] property, and to make disposition of the property according to some plan formed in [one’s] mind.” The capacity to make contracts and other decisions is the ability to understand what is being agreed upon in the contract or decision.
You can lose legal capacity if you are unconscious, have a serious illness affecting your decision-making capacity, or have a guardian appointed for you. Once you lose testamentary capacity, you cannot make a legally binding will. To protect yourself, you should consider making a will as soon as you learn that you are seriously ill. You should learn more about other estate planning documents too.
Estate Planning Documents to Consider If You Are Ill
People in poor health should consider signing not just a will, but also powers of attorney and advance directives. These documents give other people permission to act on your behalf when important decisions need to be made. In some cases, the documents will no longer be effective if you lose capacity. But you can ask your lawyer to prepare versions that either outlast your incapacity or go into effect only if you become incapacitated.
You choose which decision-making powers to delegate to others. For example, you can appoint an agent to handle health care decisions if you are incapacitated, but maintain all financial powers yourself. Also, you can specify your end-of-life and life-sustaining treatment wishes in these documents. Contact a local attorney to learn more about making your estate plan.
Want to start planning your estate? Local attorney Andrew Szocka, Esq. provides thorough and speedy estate planning help in the Chicagoland area. To schedule a free initial consultation, visit the Law Office of Andrew Szocka, P.C. online or call the office at (815) 455-8430.