Alzheimer’s And Dementia Issues In Estate Planning
Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia are more common than most of us think. Currently, over 6.5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s and related types of dementia. These are most common among those over 65 years old, but over 200,000 people under 65 in the U.S. also experience dementia or Alzheimer’s disease. As people continue to live longer overall, the rates of dementia and Alzheimer’s are expected to increase in the coming years. The number of Americans living with Alzheimer’s is expected to double by 2050 to almost 13 million.
Unfortunately, there is some chance that you or a loved one could be diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia at some point in life. With dementia comes impairment to memory, cognitive ability, speaking ability, and other essential functions. Crucially, from an estate-planning perspective, dementia hinders our ability to review assets and plan a will, trusts, or other documents. At a certain point, people with dementia may not legally be able to sign a will, create a trust, or transfer property, because they are not “competent” or “of sound mind.” (Which means that you fully understand your circumstances and are acting under your own free will.)
What Are Some Early Signs of Alzheimer’s or Related Dementia?
Some early “warning” signs can include:
- Memory loss that interferes with daily life. For example, forgetting important dates, events, and names and needing reminders for things that were easily remembered before.
- Challenges with solving problems or planning. Examples of this may be issues with tracking and paying bills or requiring extra time to work on tasks involving numbers or strategy.
- New difficulty completing familiar tasks, such as driving to the grocery store or attending church.
- New issues with speaking or writing. Problems keeping up with a train of thought while speaking, forming or completing sentences, or writing out thoughts can signal the onset of dementia in some cases.
- Poor judgment and decision-making. Abnormal decisions or actions that are out of character can signal the early stages of Alzheimer’s or other types of dementia.
What to Do When Signs of Dementia or Alzheimer’s Arise
As soon as you notice the early signs of dementia, it is crucial to examine the affected person’s state of affairs – including whether they have any of the following setup:
- Powers of Attorney
- Advance Health Care Directives (or “Living Wills”)
- Medicaid qualification
Both legal and medical experts advise those facing a recent dementia diagnosis to take steps as soon as possible to address these future concerns. From the medical perspective, it helps hospitals and health care providers to have powers of attorney and health care directives in place should a person be admitted for care and unable to speak effectively for themselves.
From a legal standpoint, establishing the groundwork for how a person’s property, accounts, trusts, and so forth will be distributed in the event of their eventual passing. This helps eliminate confusion and avoidable problems for the affected individual and their family. Anticipating future issues and needs can avoid situations where a person is required to go under a guardianship or their entire estate goes to probate because nothing was drafted to safeguard their assets.
Our Compassionate Tampa Estate Planning Attorneys Are Here to Help You and Your Family When Signs of Dementia Arise
Meeting with a Tampa area estate planning attorney can be the first step in determining what steps you should take in dementia-related scenarios. The experienced estate planning attorneys at Strategic Counsel Law Group, L.C., have worked with families like yours before and can help answer any questions you may have about your loved one’s wishes. We may also be able to address questions you didn’t even know you had about problems that can be solved with early planning. To get started today, call our attorneys at 813-286-1700 or schedule a consultation online.