Estate Planning In The Age Of Alzheimer's
People are living longer and, as they do, new legal issues arise. One of these issues is preparing for a disease that robs our loved ones of their legal ability to make decisions for themselves. Here are some ideas for how you can prepare.
What will you do?What will you do if a parent or other loved one is diagnosed with a disease, like Alzheimer's, that will destroy that person's ability to make decisions? Who will make medical decisions for your mom, if she didn't sign a medical power of attorney? Who will sign the necessary paperwork if dad must be moved into a memory care facility, if he didn't sign a statutory durable power of attorney? What will happen to the estate if he or she didn't sign a will?
Act quickly, even if it seems rude or disrespectful.If this situation arises, you need to act quickly. This can be difficult if the person in question is your parent, but you must do what you can to protect them. A person must be mentally competent to sign a binding contract, a will, or other similar document. Once a person loses that competency, it is too late to do any estate planning.
Here's the game plan.We strongly urge all our clients to sign basic estate planning documents (a will, a statutory durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a directive to physicians). Once a diagnosis of a competency-threatening disease has been made, you need to have the treating physician document that the patient is still mentally competent at that time and to do any necessary estate planning as soon as humanly possible, before competency is lost forever. Time is of the essence.
Acting now will help avoid a guardianship later.Without estate planning documents in place, it is likely that a family member will need to go to court and ask the Judge to appoint them as the guardian of the person and of the estate of the stricken family member. This time-consuming and costly process can be avoided with some timely planning.