Hopefully, you recognize the issue before it’s too late to pre-plan. The time to seriously review all of a loved one's financial and estate planning affairs is in the early stages of Dementia or Alzheimer's. Progression of the degree of incapacity varies from person to person. Obviously, a visit to a physician for a diagnosis and treatment plan should be your first priority. Then a visit to an attorney should be next.
What are your options?
1. If Your Loved One Is Still Competent
Decisions need to be made and put in place about managing health care and managing all financial and support issues before your loved one becomes completely incompetent.
Review these estate planning items:
- Beneficiary designations on life insurance, bank accounts, investments, and retirement accounts. (Be sure primary and alternate beneficiaries are named.)
- A medical power of attorney, general power of attorney, and directive to physicians should be drawn up.
- All other estate planning documents, to be sure your loved one’s desires will be fulfilled.
Your loved one’s capacity to make decisions may vary from day to day. When he or she is more lucid, take advantage of that time to review all financial and personal arrangements for management of health care, nursing care, financial support, and ultimate disposition of the estate.
2. If Your Loved One Is Not Still Competent
If your loved one is already completely incompetent, the only option left is a limited or full guardianship proceeding. You will definitely need to consult with an attorney on how to proceed.
A lot of variables will need to be discussed with your attorney to identify the best option at this point. Factors such as assets owned, whether there is a spouse that can still manage community affairs, whether your loved one can still perform some activities, and many other issues will determine the best procedure to move forward. Also, a physician's exam will be necessary to assess whether there are any areas your loved one can still handle on their own. The court will require this before a guardianship hearing.
Even though your loved one is completely incompetent, it is still important that you address the situation as soon as possible. It is amazing how quickly vultures can move in on a person in diminished capacity and gain control of and squander assets and abuse them personally. Undoing such damage is much more difficult than preventing it.
If you are ready to meet with an attorney to address possible or current incapacity of a loved one, contact Adair M. Buckner to schedule a free initial consultation.