Estate planning is important to prepare for potential memory loss. Studies show that memory loss is one of the most common ailments that an older person experiences as they begin to age. Memory loss is often a sign of early dementia, and those that suffer from dementia may not be legally competent to make financial or legal decisions. The best way to prepare for life with dementia is to plan for it through estate planning.
It is imperative to start estate planning when the early signs of memory loss begin. At this point, the person should consider their healthcare and financial future. The client should begin to think of who would be a suitable person to name in a power of attorney, whether or not the client wishes to live on life support during a coma with little chance of recovery, and where the client’s assets should go once he or she passes away.
Further, the client needs to start gathering documents to bring to an estate planning attorney. The client should create an itemized list of assets, and store copies of deeds and titles of assets, copies of tax returns, and copies of health insurance policies. This will allow the Jacksonville estate planning lawyers at The Law Office of David M. Goldman to create an estate plan that caters to the client’s unique needs.
What Types Of Estate Planning Documents Help A Person With Dementia?
One of the first documents we recommend to someone suffering from early signs of dementia is the durable power of attorney for finances. This document lets another person control the client’s finances if he or she is not able to make financial decisions on her own.
The person named in the power of attorney is known as the client’s agent, or the attorney-in-fact. When a person is ruled incompetent, then this person takes over the client’s financial decisions and responsibilities. This is important because a person that suffers from dementia often live for a long period. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, those with dementia live an average of 8 years. During this time the client will need to pay creditors and daily living expenses and arrange payment for hospital expenses.
No one, including a spouse, will have the ability to make financial decisions for the client without a durable power of attorney. An agent under a durable power of attorney can manage retirement accounts, enter contracts, or even sell assets in the best interest of the client.
Health Care Advanced Directives
An advanced directive allows the client to make health care decisions now if he or she ever becomes incompetent due to dementia. The advanced directive, also known as a living will, allows a person to express his or wishes for end-of-life care. These documents typically cover end of life medical treatments such as surgery, resuscitation, ventilators, and feedings tubes. These advanced directives are great estate planning tools because it allows the client to state his or wishes while competent to avoid years of bickering among family members and costly legal battles.
Many people might remember the famous incident of Terry Schiavo, a person that spent years in a coma while her family members furiously fought over whether or not to end life support. A court finally decided her fate after lengthy and expensive trials. A person can save his or her family grief and money by filing an advanced directive today.
A client may also wish to create a health care power of attorney, which is a document that can give an agent the power to make medical decisions on the client’s behalf if the client is no longer able to make decisions. This could be a good idea if someone suffers from dementia and needs an agent to make day-to-day health care choices for the agent.
Wills and Trusts
It is also important that a person suffering from memory loss decide today how they wish for their assets to pass once they pass away. A person that suffers from dementia may be vulnerable to the wishes of others, and unable to make fully informed decisions later in his or her life.
This is why we recommend a person create a will or trust. These documents will allow the client to name beneficiaries to the estate. Through these documents the client can name which person will receive certain assets. A living trust is similar to a will, but it allows the decedent’s estate to bypass probate. Probate is a controlled court process that often takes anywhere from a few months to a year depending on the complexity of the estate.
If a person suffers from dementia and a court rules him or her to be incompetent, then he or she will not be able to create a will or trust. If this happens, the decedent’s estate will pass according to intestate succession. Intestate succession is a set of laws that dictate how a person’s estate will pass. The client has no say over how his or her assets will pass; this is why it is imperative to make these decisions now.
For more information on how to prepare for life with dementia through estate planning contact the estate planning attorneys at The Law Office of David Goldman today.