Dementia is a very common cognitive disorder that often develops as people grow older. As such, it is a reality that many families need to keep in mind when estate planning. It can have an impact on how someone’s plan is designed and what it seeks to accomplish.
How can you know if someone is suffering from dementia or if the disorder has started to develop? Here are a few symptoms that are commonly observed in dementia patients:
- Trouble finding the right words
- Issues with memory loss
- Mental confusion, perhaps leading to getting lost
- Difficulty with complex tasks
- Problems with overall confusion and disorientation
- The onset of anxiety and depression
- Notable personality changes, such as agitation or paranoia
- Acting inappropriately for the situation
It’s also important to note that dementia can manifest in different ways from one patient to the next. The above are simply examples of potential symptoms, but each case is unique.
Why this subject matters when it comes to estate planning
Dementia is an influence that should be considered when some families engage in estate planning because it underscores the need to put a medical power of attorney in place. If the condition becomes so advanced that the elderly person cannot make their own medical decisions, a power of attorney can give someone else the ability to do so. A financial or legal power of attorney can also be used so that a trusted individual can assist a dementia patient with things like paying the bills and paying taxes.
A power of attorney generally only takes effect when someone has become incapacitated. That’s why it’s so important to pay attention to the signs and symptoms of dementia. It can be challenging to determine when someone is suffering from minor issues but still has enough cognitive ability to make their own decisions, and when decisions need to be made for them. If a patient made an estate plan while the symptoms were still minor, it can help to guide their family as to the nature of their true wishes.
Setting up an estate plan
Estate planning can address powers of attorney, medical decisions, the distribution of assets and much more. Everyone who has a stake in this process needs to make sure they understand their legal options and the steps they can take to safeguard their interests and the interests of their loved ones.