Is It Too Late to Plan After a Dementia Diagnosis?

photo of man with blocks that spell dementia

Planning for the future is essential, regardless of the challenges life presents. One such challenge is the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. These conditions bring about significant changes in an individual’s cognitive abilities and raise important questions about their capacity to engage in estate planning. In this blog post, we will explore the possibilities and considerations surrounding estate planning after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia. So, let’s dive in and discover how individuals can still engage in estate planning, even in the face of these challenging conditions.

Understanding Atlzeimer’s and Dementia

Before we delve into the topic of estate planning, it’s crucial to have a basic understanding of Alzheimer’s and dementia. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive brain disorder that affects memory, thinking, and behavior, while dementia is an umbrella term encompassing various conditions that cause cognitive decline. These conditions may present unique challenges, but they don’t necessarily mean that estate planning is impossible.

Early Planning: The Sooner, the Better

The key to effective estate planning for individuals diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia lies in early planning. By initiating the process early on, individuals can make important decisions while they still possess the mental capacity to do so. Consulting with an experienced elder law attorney can be immensely helpful during this phase.

Important Components of Planning

Power of Attorney

Granting a power of attorney allows you to designate someone to make financial and legal decisions on your behalf. This person, known as the agent or attorney-in-fact, will act in your best interests, manage your finances, pay bills, and handle legal matters when you are unable to do so. It’s essential to choose a trustworthy and competent individual who understands your wishes and will act in accordance with them. For aging people and particularly those with a diagnosis that makes the future need for use of the power of attorney very likely, the power of attorney should be comprehensive and address the various planning issues that could arise, such as the power to create an irrevocable trust or gifting power.

Advanced Healthcare Directives

Creating advanced healthcare directives, such as a living will and a healthcare power of attorney, is essential to preserve your voice in medical decision making. These documents outline your wishes regarding medical treatments, end-of-life decisions, and appoint a trusted person to make medical decisions when you can no longer express your preferences. Discussing your healthcare wishes with your chosen healthcare surrogate and healthcare providers is crucial to ensure they understand your desires.

Wills & Trusts

Crafting a will or establishing trusts is crucial to determine how your assets will be distributed after your passing and can also play a significant role in preserving assets from the high costs of long-term care, and qualifying for Medicaid. With the guidance of an elder law attorney, you can ensure that your intentions are clearly stated and minimize potential conflicts among family members. Trusts can be especially useful in managing and preserving your assets while providing for your needs during your lifetime.

Challenges & Considerations

Engaging in estate planning after an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis can present challenges due to the progressive nature of these conditions. Some important considerations include:

Legal Capacity

One of the primary concerns is the individual’s legal capacity to make decisions. Alzheimer’s and dementia can impair cognitive abilities over time, making it difficult to understand and make informed decisions. If there are doubts about a person’s capacity, it may be necessary to seek guardianship which is handled through the courts. Most people want to avoid the need for guardianship, so it’s vital to act promptly to avoid complications that may arise if capacity diminishes further.

Family Dynamics

Estate planning can become complex when family dynamics are involved. It is essential to communicate openly with family members and involve them in the planning process early on. By discussing your wishes, concerns, and intentions, you can address potential conflicts and ensure that everyone understands your decisions. This can help minimize disputes and promote harmony within the family.

Updating Plans

Regularly reviewing and updating estate plans is crucial, particularly in the case of progressive conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. As the individual’s needs and circumstances change, it is important to adapt the estate plan accordingly to reflect their current wishes and ensure its effectiveness. At Stages Elder Law and Estate Planning, our Elder Care Protection Plans and Life Care Plans are based on a year long representation and are renewable annually, providing you the peace of mind of knowing our team is just a call away.

Seeking Professional Guidance

Navigating the complexities of estate planning while dealing with Alzheimer’s or dementia can be overwhelming. It is highly recommended to seek the assistance of professionals who specialize in elder law and have experience in working with individuals facing cognitive challenges. An elder law attorney can explain legal requirements, and ensure that all necessary documents are properly prepared and executed. We offer free consultations to help you determine whether you need to engage in planning. You can call us at 859-559-0518 or book directly through our website.

Although receiving an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis may present challenges, it is still possible and crucial to engage in comprehensive legal planning addressing future legal, care, and financial issues. By initiating the process early, working closely with professionals, and addressing the unique considerations of these conditions, individuals can ensure that their wishes are respected and their assets will meet their care needs. Remember, no matter the circumstances, it’s never too late to start planning and securing your future.