Dementia – Planning Ahead

According to the National Institute on Aging,  dementia is the loss of cognitive functioning (thinking, remembering, and reasoning) and behavioral abilities to such an extent that it interferes with a person’s daily life and activities.

Dementia is more common as people grow older.

Up to half of all people age 85 or older may have some form of dementia.

As Elder Lawyers, we deal with dementia from a legal perspective. Estate planning is not just about wills and how to pass ownership of property on death, but rather planning for life.

The best way to plan to deal with the possibility of dementia is to take action well before it is needed and while a person still has the capacity to think, remember and reason.

Common estate planning techniques to deal with dementia are health care powers of attorney, statutory durable powers of attorney, and revocable living trusts.

A power of attorney is simply an appointment of an agent to make decisions for you.  A health care of attorney appoints an agent to make medical decisions if you can’t make your own. A statutory durable power of attorney is the appointment of an agent to make financial transactions for you. A statutory durable power of attorney can be drafted to go into effect when it is signed, or only when the person giving it becomes incapacitated.

A trust is an agreement to have a trustee manage money and property for the benefit of a beneficiary. It is commonly used as a will substitute to avoid probate, but it also can provide financial management for a person with dementia during his or her lifetime.

If a person hasn’t planned to deal with dementia by use of one or more of these estate planning techniques and then becomes one of its victims, then it may be necessary to have a court-created guardianship.  In a guardianship, the Court decides what powers should be taken away from a person and given to a guardian. All guardianships are court-supervised and can involve substantial legal expense.

Most estate planners prefer to plan to avoid guardianship.  However, just in case you do need a guardian, it is prudent to designate your choice of a guardian in advance with an estate planning document called a Declaration of Guardian.

Work with your physician to prevent, delay and treat dementia. Work with Hammerle Finley Law Firm to avoid guardianship and allow for financial and health care decisions to be made by a person of your choosing.