In an ideal world, everyone would have an estate plan in place and legal documents drawn up long before they are ever needed. Despite the best efforts of estate planning attorneys everywhere, this is not always the case. For some people, however, early planning is not just smart but critically important.
Individuals with dementia are one such group. The sooner legal planning is done, the more the patient can participate in the process and express their wishes. This often prevents families from being left to guess or agonize over which choices to make when issues arise and stress is high.
Legal planning should be done before dementia progresses far and affects the patient’s legal capacity to sign documents. Legal capacity is determined by the ability to make rational decisions and various degrees of it are required for different documents. If a person with dementia is able to understand a document and the impact it potentially has on their life, they would likely be considered be fit enough to sign it. An elder law or estate planning attorney can judge legal capacity.
Perhaps the most important concern for individuals with dementia and their families is the potential need for long-term care services and how to pay for them. Many individuals with dementia will eventually need some form of long-term care, a huge expense. The person and their family should research what options exist for this care are and then which resources are available to them to help finance them. For example, does the patient have Medicare, veteran’s benefits or insurance coverage that would pay for long-term care services? Would they qualify for Medicaid?
An individual with dementia should also express their healthcare wishes and designate the person they would like to make medical decisions for them by establishing a medical proxy and living will. This will ensure that their own wishes are known and followed when they are unable to make them for themselves.
Another important legal consideration for people with dementia should make is who they want to make legal and financial decisions on their behalf when they are unable to. This is done by granting power of attorney. It is wise to appoint a backup agent as well just in case the original agent cannot carry out their duties.
An attorney can help a person with dementia and their family navigate the planning process to ensure the patient is protected and their needs are addressed. When it comes to a condition as serious as dementia, early planning offers essential peace of mind for people with dementia and all who love them.
At the New York estate planning law firm of Littman Krooks, LLP, we have over 30 years of experience helping families effectively plan for their financial future. We pride ourselves in providing an exceptional level of service to individuals of varying net worth, helping our clients ensure that future generations are well taken care of and reducing the tax burdens on their estates. To learn more about how our dedicated team of attorneys can assist your family with its unique needs, call 914-684-1200 to schedule a no-obligation consultation today or contact us here.