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Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis

Posted on Mon Dec 11, 2023, on Medical Power of Attorney Living Will

From Our “Ask a Question” Mailbag: “My husband has been diagnosed with dementia. We want to put things in order while he perfectly understands what we are doing. What should we do about Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis?”

Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis

Estate Planning Attorney Lawyer Daniella Horn

Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis; What to Do.

Receiving your own or a loved one’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or dementia is shocking. You may be tempted to hunker down. But while it may be difficult, now is the time to make decisions and plan for the future.

The effect of Alzheimer’s will mean that eventually, over time, your ability to make decisions will diminish. You will never be more able to create and explain decisions to those around you than you are today.  

Eventually, you will need help. Establishing your estate planning documents now will help ensure you have named the correct people to help you address medical decisions and manage your financial assets. These documents can be changed so that you can modify your choices over time.

Medical Planning.

Advanced Medical Directives allow you to outline your wishes and are used only if you cannot make these decisions yourself. A typical directive has two parts.

  • Your living will explains to your doctor what care and treatment you wish to receive or refuse once you can no longer speak for yourself.
  • A durable power of attorney for medical care appoints your Agent to speak for you on medical matters.

Most people expect these documents only to be used after an unexpected medical emergency. But you know that with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, you may live for many years, unable to make your own medical decisions. Select your Agent wisely. Share your wishes openly. These discussions can feel challenging, but you do neither yourself nor your Agent favors by holding back. The Agent’s goal is to tell the doctor your wishes. They cannot if you have not shared candidly. 

Financial Planning.

Your assets will dictate what documents are needed to address your financial matters. You may have only a house and a bank account. But you may also have an IRA or 401k, a business, a pension, or some other complicated assets that require special care.

Consult with your Estate Planning Attorney about what documents best address your situation.

Here are some examples:

  • A Will: Your Will states how and to whom your assets are distributed after your death. It might create an irrevocable trust at your end to protect your spouse and children and appoint a funeral director to manage the details of your final arrangements.
  • Revocable Living Trust: This document replaces your Will, avoids probate, and can help manage your assets during your lifetime. For more information, follow this link to Revocable Living Trusts.
  • Durable General Power of Attorney: The broadest POA, this document gives your Agent the authority to do almost anything you could do until you either revoke the grant or die.
  • Limited Power of Attorney: More restrictive than a blanket General Power, use a Limited POA to give your Agent a specific task or limit the time the authority exists.
    • For example, you may give your sister a limited POA to manage your IRA. Or, you may provide your spouse the power to manage your rental property in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, but your daughter the ability to control the rental property in Ocean County, New Jersey.
  • Springing Power of Attorney: This refers to a document granting authority to your Agent only when triggered.  
    • For example, you give your daughter the power to manage your rental property in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, but only if a doctor certifies that you have become incapacitated.

Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis, What to Do?

In Conclusion:

Want to learn more? For more information, follow this link to learn more about Durable General Powers of Attorney. Or follow this link to learn more about Living Wills and Medical Directives.

I hope you found this short article addressing Estate Planning After a Dementia Diagnosis. I have also included some links for more detailed information. If you want to update your Will, POA, or Living Will, contact us and let our Estate Planning lawyers help. Feel free to contact our office for a free consultation. 

For more information about Alzheimer’s and related dementia, both for the person diagnosed and for the caregivers, follow this link.

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Alzheimer’s, dementia, Medical Power of Attorney, Power of Attorney

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