Longer lives don’t always mean healthy lives; according to the Alzheimer’s Association, about half of people who live past age 85 will suffer from some form of dementia. Watching a loved one lose their language, reasoning abilities and memories is tragic, which makes it important for them to have an estate plan. When you’re caring for your loved one or grieving their loss, having their wishes clearly established will save you time and frustration.
There are 3 key things to plan for when you’re concerned about dementia: distribution of assets, health care directives, and appointing a person with power of attorney to make financial decisions on behalf of the impaired party.
A “Sound Mind”
In order to make a valid will and estate plan, the person making the plan must be of sound mind: that is, they have to be able to understand the consequences of their choices, cannot be under duress (for example, pressure from another person to distribute their assets in a certain way), and be able to comprehend what their assets actually are. This is why it’s important to have a plan settled well before any signs of impairment appear.
If you’re helping someone who is already suffering from dementia, talk to them to see if they understand what you’re asking them to sign. You will want to gather old wills and other existing legal documents to see if they remember creating them, and whether they need to be updated. Finally, you can ask a medical professional to help you assess whether your loved one is able to understand the gravity of what they’re signing.
Distribution of Assets
Naturally, you’ll want to tackle the distribution of assets—bearing in mind that you may need to set aside money for long-term health care expenses. These are often distributed through wills, living trusts, and beneficiary designations. Talk to your estate planning professional to find out how you can maximize your wealth and avoid costly tax liabilities.
Read more on Asset Protection
HealthCare Proxies and Directives
Health care directives are important because they clearly outline your expectations and wishes for end-of-life care. This can include directions for pain relief and other treatments such as feeding and breathing tubes. You can also take the opportunity to appoint someone as your health care power of attorney, who will make medical decisions for you when you’re no longer able to do so. Having your wishes in writing will also make it significantly easier for your family to cope during an emotionally fraught time.
Power of Attorney
Finally, someone should be assigned power of attorney to help carry out financial duties, such as paying bills. This can be the same person who is acting as your health care proxy, if you wish.
If no power of attorney is designated in your estate plan, your loved ones will have to go to court to not only prove you’re incapable of managing your affairs, but to ask the court to appoint a conservator. That’s needlessly time-consuming and expensive.
It’s smart to not only assign a trusted loved one power of attorney over the patient, but also a successor. If the person with power of attorney is unable to act, for whatever reason, the successor can step in and perform their duties.
Read more on Durable Power of Attorney
When you’re ready to make an estate plan, call Baker Law Group, P.C., for more information and a free consultation. We’ll use our years of experience and expertise to ensure you and your family are well cared-for, no matter what life brings. Call 781-996-5656 or toll free at 800-701-0352 today. MBakerLaw.com