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"Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths."
- Proverbs 3:5-6
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Why Everyone Needs an ‘Incapacity Plan’
Dementia has become the No. 1 cause of disability globally, according to the World Health Organization.

Stroke, which can also profoundly impair judgment and decision-making, stands at No. 2.

This year, 7.7 million new cases of dementia will be diagnosed and 15 million people will suffer a stroke. By the time dementia symptoms become apparent, their competence may already be affected. Strokes can be tragically sudden.

While many people carefully plan for retirement and what will become of their estate after death, too few provide for that middle ground – incapacity.

People should plan for incapacity, and if it never comes into play that is wonderful. Incapacity planning ensures you are able to speak for yourself in all decisions, from your medical care to financial affairs.

Here are three steps everyone should take, from the accounting, legal and financial perspectives.

Get disability insurance

The likelihood of something happening that affects your ability to work is high, so you really should carry disability insurance.

How you pay for it can have different tax impacts. If you purchase it through your business, whether as owner or employee, you can take a tax deduction on the premiums. However, that means any claims paid will be taxable. If you pay with post-tax dollars, any benefits are not taxable. The difference in saving taxes on $200 a month in premiums versus $5,000 a month in benefits is significant.

More new policies now are capped at 10 years of payments – not lifetime. So be sure you understand the terms.

Have legal documents that clearly state your wishes

These include a durable power of attorney for financial affairs and an advanced health care directive for medical decisions.

Name the people, the “agents”, who will be responsible for implementing those decisions, and draw up a document that delineates their responsibilities and powers. Choose people in whom you have a great deal of faith and trust. People need to remember they are going to be vulnerable. You do not want to pick someone if you have a quiver of doubt about them. One safeguard is to name an agent, and a second person to whom the agent must report. Just the idea that you have to report keeps people honest.

In some states, the government provides forms so people can prepare these documents themselves. You should at least consult with an attorney.

If you are the “non-financial” spouse, become familiar with the financial plan

Typically, one spouse is in charge of the finances, and the other takes a back seat, or even no seat. The non-involved person needs to understand how the finances are arranged and planned, and he or she needs to be very comfortable with the family’s advisors. This will prevent a nightmare during an already stressful time should the involved spouse suddenly become incapacitated.

Both spouses should attend meetings with the family’s advisors, even if one spouse does not fully understand or is not interested in all the details. If something happens, they will know who to call and what to do. They will avoid a nightmare. That is piece of mind.

It is important to have these provisions in place long before you think you will need them.

Younger people have a higher chance of becoming disabled before they pass away, and they are usually the people who have not planned for that at all.

By John Hartog, attorney, Jim Kohles, CPA and Haitham “Hutch” Ashoo, CEO of Pillar Wealth Management, LLC