Many people mistakenly believe that if they become ill or injured and are unable to manage their own affairs, their spouse will be able to step into their shoes and take care of things for them. While this is partially true – your spouse can continue to manage your joint bank account, for example – you still need to consider disability planning even if you’re married.
Here are just a few of the things your spouse can’t do for you:
- Sign for you during real estate transactions;
- Sell your vehicle (even if it’s jointly owned);
- Sell jointly-owned stocks;
- Handle legal claims on your behalf.
In order for these and other things to be taken care of in the event that you’re incapacitated, you’ll need to have a plan in place. Your plan will need to include documents such as a Durable Financial Power of Attorney or a Revocable Living Trust.
Under a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, you name an agent – often your spouse – to handle your financial affairs in case you’re unable to. You can give your agent broad power to control all of your affairs, or you can specify limited power over certain, finite affairs.
Under a Revocable Living Trust, you name yourself as initial trustee, and transfer your property into the trust. You also name a Disability Trustee, again, often your spouse, to take over in the event you’re incapacitated. You specify in your trust how you’d like your Disability Trustee to handle your trust property if you’re unable to take care of it yourself and he or she takes over when the time comes.
Without some type of disability planning, your family will likely need to go to court to have a conservator appointed in order to manage your finances for you in the event of your incapacity.