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Planning and Dementia

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It is possible to ensure that someone with dementia has their wishes carried out throughout their life. First and foremost is the concept that when a person has the capacity to arrange their affairs in the way that they want, they need to do so. If a person wants to arrange their affairs in a certain way but does not do so, WHEN THAT PERSON NO LONGER HAS THE LEGAL CAPACITY TO EXECUTE LEGAL DOCUMENTS, he or she will have forced a loved one to seek court authority to act on that person’s behalf. If a person does not establish an estate plan when they are able to do so, they leave their loved ones no alternative. So the message is clear: When one has the requisite legal capacity to execute legal documents, they should do so.

Durable Power of Attorney
Setting up a Durable Power of Attorney enables you to appoint one or more people you trust to manage your financial affairs for you if this becomes necessary. Making a Durable Power of Attorney is very important, as it will simplify day-to-day money management as dementia progresses, and avoids the more complicated and costly business of Court of Protection Receivership. As indicated above, someone who has a diagnosis of dementia can still make a Durable Power of Attorney, providing they have the capacity to understand what it is they are doing – a doctor’s advice should be sought if there is any doubt about this.

Health Care Proxy
Health Care Proxies allow people to say, in advance, what medical treatments they would or would not wish to have in the future, if they are unable to decide this for themselves.

Many people prefer not to think about ill-health or death, and some people would rather leave decisions about their healthcare to professionals. If it is important to you to ensure that your wishes for future care are known, then advance statements and advance decisions are worth investigating.

Wills
Everyone should make a will. A last will and testament is a written expression or declaration of a person’s mind or wishes as to the disposition of his or her property, to be performed or take effect after death. A person with dementia can still make or change a will, if they can show that they understand what they are doing and what the effects of it will be.

Trusts
Depending on your situation, there can be several advantages to establishing a trust. Most well known is the advantage of avoiding probate. However, trusts can also be used to protect property from creditors, to help the grantor qualify for MassHealth, or simply to provide for someone else to manage and invest property for the grantor and the named beneficiaries. If well drafted, a trust’s effectiveness continues even if the donor dies or becomes incapacitated.