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What is Incapacity Planning? The Bruce Willis Case

What is Incapacity Planning? The Bruce Willis Case - Florida

One high-profile example of the importance of incapacity planning is the case of Bruce Willis, a physically healthy, prosperous and successful 67-year-old. As a successful actor with great wealth and assets, Willis’ recent medical diagnosis of diagnosis of frontotemporal dementia, known as FTD, can potentially create significant legal and financial implications for his family.

Estate Planning is a comprehensive process that involves managing and distributing assets in the event of your death. While estate planning is most commonly associated with what happens when you pass away, a solid and thorough estate plan should include stipulations about scenarios that could occur during your life, such as incapacity. Unfortunately, incapacity planning is often neglected when creating an estate plan.

Yet regardless of your economic status, creating an estate plan that includes planning for potential incapacity is prudent.

In this article, we will:

  • Examine what the Bruce Willis case teaches us about incapacity planning
  • Explore the concept of incapacity planning in more detail
  • Discuss the necessity of including incapacity in your estate plan

Bruce Willis’ Medical Diagnosis: Frontotemporal Dementia

At age 67, action star Bruce Willis was diagnosed with frontotemporal dementia, a neurodegenerative brain condition for which there is no known cure. The illness has left him with an impaired ability to communicate, comprehend and make decisions. Those with frontotemporal dementia may also experience the following:

  • Change in mood or personality
  • Decreased social awareness, tact, or inhibition
  • Speech and language difficulty
  • Muscle spasms
  • Obsessive or repetitive behaviors
  • Poor coordination or mobility issues
  • Difficulty swallowing


In 2022, Willis retired from acting.

“Unfortunately, challenges with communication are just one symptom of the disease Bruce faces,” reads a statement from his family. “While this is painful, finally having a clear diagnosis is a relief.”

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What the Bruce Willis Case Teaches Us About Incapacity Planning

Bruce Willis’s devastating medical diagnosis certainly brings him and his family emotional hardship. However, these non-death scenarios can also complicate financial and legal matters for the families of incapacitated patients. Since Willis’ diagnosis involves issues with communication and decision-making, his case perfectly illustrates why everyone should consider the possibility of future incapacity in an estate plan.

Yet his is only one of many cases demonstrating the importance of incapacity planning. There are many other medical scenarios and unpredictable circumstances that can lead to incapacity and necessitate its inclusion in an estate plan, such as:

  1. Accidents.
    Car crashes, workplace accidents, and even accidents in the home can happen to anyone at any time. Injuries resulting from accidents can potentially leave one temporarily or permanently incapacitated.
  2. Medical emergencies.
    Sudden and unpredictable health issues such as stroke or a heart attack can strike without warning. These conditions can lead to coma, paralysis, and other physical or mental incapacity. 
  3. Mental illness.
    Certain cases of mental illness can progress to the point of incapacity. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and PTSD may impair decision-making abilities, necessitating an incapacity plan.
  4. Cognitive decline.
    While conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and other age-related cognitive illnesses don’t afflict everyone, general cognitive decline without underlying illness is common among the elderly. Our memory, communication, and decision-making abilities often deteriorate as we age. This means that we may need to ensure that a trusted individual is appointed to make our decisions in our later years.

Including Scenarios of Incapacity in an Estate Plan

Regardless of age, financial status or life circumstances, it’s important to consider incapacity when creating your estate plan. Including scenarios other than death is the easiest way to ensure your wishes are respected should you become incapable of making decisions or communicating. With a comprehensive incapacity plan, you’ll be able to outline provisions relating to the following:

  • Surgeries and procedures
  • Life support
  • The administration of pain relief
  • Resuscitation efforts (DNR)
  • Palliative care

Working with a qualified Estate Planning Attorney, you can create an advanced healthcare directive, a “Living Will.” This official documentation will record and preserve your medical preferences, ensuring that your decisions are carried out and your loved ones are protected in the event of incapacity.

Advance healthcare directives are important legal documents that can help prevent confusion, disagreement, or regret about difficult medical decisions. But who needs one? The most accurate answer is everyone. Anyone over 18, regardless of their health status, should consider having an advance healthcare directive.

While it may seem more sensible to associate advance directives with older adults, the sad reality is that accidents and unexpected medical emergencies can happen to anyone at any age. Getting an advance healthcare directive for every adult in your family is the easiest way to bring collective peace of mind about important medical decisions.

The Best Time To Think About Advanced Healthcare Is Now

Accidents, medical emergencies and other tragedies can happen when you least expect them. When they don’t end in death, they can result in physical or mental impairments. The Bruce Willis case illustrates that incapacity can happen to anyone and should be included in estate planning.

In a previous article, we discussed National Healthcare Decisions Day (NHDD) and the importance of sharing your advanced healthcare wishes with your family and healthcare providers. Advanced healthcare directives are available to anyone over 18, and with NHDD on the horizon (April 16th), there has never been a more appropriate time to broach the topic of incapacity planning. Taking the time to plan for incapacity now can provide peace of mind and protect your interests in the future.

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Call THE South Florida Estate Planning Attorney – Barry Siegel

Incapacity planning is not a pleasant topic to think about or discuss, but at the very least, it can be made straightforward to spare you and your loved ones stress and anguish. At the Siegel Law Group, our experienced Estate Planning Attorneys have extensive legal knowledge about the intricacies of incapacity planning. Working together, we can develop a comprehensive plan tailored to your needs, preferences, and circumstances. Call our office at (561) 576-6206 for a complimentary consultation, or submit our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

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