By Estate Planning Attorney Rick Law, Senior Advocate at the Estate Planning Center at Law Elder Law in Aurora in Chicagoland in Illinois.
As soon as it is discovered that you or a loved one has Alzheimer’s, it is time to examine the current estate plan. If the individual has a well-drafted power of attorney or living will, then they’re usually in good shape.
However, it is often the case that people are not well prepared for the unexpected and many people do not have a power of attorney or living will. In these situations, your lawyer may need to turn to a guardianship.
Mental capacity is not an all-or-nothing concept. Capacity runs along a continuum and may vary according to several factors, such as the time of day, the task presented, and life stressors.
Document conversations with a memo to the file. In cases in which there is likely to be a question about the capacity of an individual, lawyers should write a memorandum to the file as soon as possible to document the conversations with the individual, generally focusing on surrounding events, current events, and things of that nature.
Even when a person has Alzheimer’s, they may still have valid preferences when they apparently cannot think clearly about complicated matters.
If an individual is determined to be incompetent, another hearing will be held and the court will appoint a conservator to handle the individual’s financial affairs and/or a guardian will be appointed to tend to the individual’s personal and health-care needs.
It is important to keep in mind that even though an individual has Alzheimer’s, that individual’s abilities and wishes should be honored as long as possible. Just because the individual is diagnosed with dementia does not mean that the individual loses all rights at the point of diagnosis.
The individual’s competency may need to be determined, but a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s does not instantly signal that a person is totally incapacitated.
Dementia, like some other mental disorders, is progressive and degenerative. Professional evaluation is necessary to determine a person’s competencies as they change over the trajectory of the disease.
When individuals with Alzheimer’s do lose the ability to make decisions for themselves, it will be absolutely necessary to have a guardian to legally make the decisions for the individual if the proper planning was not put in place earlier.
If your loved one has memory problems and you’re afraid of the consequences that may bring, give our office a call today at 800-310-3100. Your first consultation is absolutely free. We’ll let you know what steps you need to take, right now, to protect yourself and your family. Call now.
Rick L. Law, Attorney, Estate Planner for Retirees.
Rick was named the #1 Illinois elder law estate planning attorney by Leading Lawyer Magazine. He has been quoted in the Wall Street Journal, AARP Magazine, TheStreet.com, and numerous newspapers and articles. Rick is the lead attorney for Law Elder Law, LLP, focusing in Estate Planning, Guardianship, and Nursing Home Solutions. His goal is to give retirees an informed edge when it comes to dealing with an uncertain future. Get flexible retirement strategies that work during good times and bad, plus information on how you can save your home and assets from being used to pay for long term care. Call 800-310-3100 for your free consultation now!