Receiving a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another progressive form of dementia is always devastating for everyone involved. It is never easy to wrap your head around the changes that will gradually make life more challenging for you and your family.
If you have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, it is important to take certain steps that will make things easier for you and your family as your condition progresses.
Find an Elder Law Attorney
One of the first steps you can take to ensure that your plans go as smoothly as possible is to hire an elder law attorney with substantial experience in long-term care planning. Elder law attorneys deal with legal matters that are significant for older individuals. This includes planning for incapacity, insurance coverage, long-term care, and transfer of assets after they pass away. The right elder law attorney can potentially save you large sums of money in the long run.
Understanding Testamentary Capacity
Testamentary capacity is a person’s legal capacity to create or revise their powers of attorney and their estate planning documents. There is no standardized assessment to determine testamentary capacity, but an elder law attorney will be adept at assessing their clients by observing them in conversation. If the attorney begins to have doubts about their client’s capacity, they may ask a medical professional to assess the client formally.
Setting Up Your Estate Plan
It is important to set up or update your estate plan early on after receiving your diagnosis when your testamentary capacity is still intact.
Estate plans usually include a will, which outlines a person’s wishes regarding who should receive their assets after death.
Your estate plan should also include documents regarding financial and healthcare powers of attorney (POAs). These documents grant legal authority for someone else to act on your behalf if you are no longer legally capable of making your own decisions.
A healthcare power of attorney is sometimes known as an “advanced medical directive.” It allows your agent to make decisions regarding your bodily health when you have lost the capacity to do so. This includes the right to have discussions with your medical professionals.
A financial power of attorney will allow your agent to make decisions about your finances and assets when you are no longer able to do so yourself.
Both of these documents should include the threshold determination for what constitutes “incapacity” and allows the POA to go into effect. This could be an examination and report from one or two treating physicians or some other specific, measurable event that renders you legally incompetent. Once that threshold event occurs, your agents acting as your POAs can perform their appointed tasks.
Start Planning Early
If you have recently been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you are probably overwhelmed with emotions and questions about what it means. While it may seem difficult to give your attention to legal planning in the wake of receiving this kind of news, it is best to begin taking these steps as soon as you possibly can.
If you need assistance starting the process, our elder law attorneys are here to guide you through your options. To schedule a consultation at our law firm, simply call (718) 875-2191 and mention this blog post or schedule online here.
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