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Planning for Disability and Incapacity

Aged Care

Updated 25-01-2024

Planning for Disability and Incapacity

When it comes to preparing for the future, the importance of planning for disability and incapacity cannot be overstated. It's a critical aspect that can often be overlooked in the process of estate planning. However, facing the potential reality of being unable to make decisions due to a medical condition or incapacitation is something that demands careful attention and informed decision-making.

Understanding the Risks

Disability and incapacity can affect anyone at any time, whether through sudden illness, injury, or gradually through aging. The impact can be profound, both on the individual and their loved ones. Without appropriate plans in place, the welfare and financial security of the incapacitated individual may be left to the decision-making of others who may not understand their wishes or have their best interests at heart.

Australian law provides mechanisms through which individuals can plan for the possibility of disability and incapacity. The cornerstone documents in preparing for these situations are Powers of Attorney and Advance Healthcare Directives. These documents allow individuals to appoint someone they trust to manage their affairs and make decisions on their behalf when they are incapable of doing so themselves.

Powers of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal document that authorises another person – the attorney – to act on someone's behalf concerning their financial and property affairs. There are different types of powers of attorney, each with varying levels of control:

  • General Power of Attorney: Often used for a specific purpose and is valid only while the person who made it is mentally capable.
  • Enduring Power of Attorney: Comes into effect when the person becomes mentally incompetent and continues to remain in effect.

Advance Healthcare Directives

Advance Healthcare Directives, commonly known as living wills, are legal documents where individuals can outline their health care preferences in the event that they become incapacitated. This could include instructions about life support and other treatments they may or may not wish to undergo.

Financial Planning

Beyond legal documents, planning for disability and incapacity also involves ensuring financial stability. This includes:

  • Long-term care insurance
  • Disability insurance
  • Emergency funds
  • Retirement savings that can be accessed in the case of early retirement due to disability

Financial advisors and lawyers can provide invaluable assistance in setting up these plans and ensuring that they meet individual needs.

Communicating with Family

An important but often neglected part of planning for incapacity involves having conversations with family members. Communication ensures that those tasked with decision-making roles understand their responsibilities and the incapacitated person’s wishes. These discussions can be sensitive but are essential for ensuring that plans are carried out according to the individual's preferences.

Planning Continues

Remember, planning for disability and incapacity isn't a one-time event. It requires periodic review and updates due to changes in personal circumstances, relationships, and legislation. Working with trusted advisors to keep these documents and plans current is a vital part of this ongoing process.


Taking steps to plan for disability and incapacity is an act of compassion towards oneself and one’s family. It provides peace of mind, knowing that if the unexpected happens, personal wishes will be honoured, and loved ones will have clear guidance. It eliminates the guesswork for family members and ensures that the individual's welfare and estate are managed in a way that aligns with their values and desires. With thoughtful planning, the strain on family members during a difficult time can be greatly reduced, allowing them to focus on supporting each other rather than making burdensome decisions.

About the Author

Olivia is a seasoned professional with an extensive career spanning the Aged Care sector, bringing decades of experience to her role. Her comprehensive understanding of Aged Care services and practices is a testament to her dedication. Olivia’s gratitude extends to those who have generously shared their knowledge and insights with her over the years, contributing to her wealth of expertise.

Olivia’s articles reflect her commitment to practical and informative content. They skillfully combine her industry know-how with real-world insights, providing valuable resources for navigating the complexities of the Aged Care sector. Olivia stands as a reliable advocate for delivering compassionate and effective care to elderly individuals, offering her support not only to fellow care workers and professionals but also to those seeking to gain a deeper understanding of the sector.

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