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Four Steps to Take Right After a Dementia Diagnosis

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with dementia, it is important to start planning immediately. There are several essential documents you need to have in place TODAY.   If you do not already have these in place, you need to act quickly; especially after a diagnosis of dementia.

Having dementia does not mean an individual is not mentally competent to make planning decisions. The person signing documents must have ‘capacity’ which means he or she must understand the implications of what is being signed. Simply having a form of mental illness or disease does not mean that you automatically lack the required mental capacity. As long as you have periods of lucidity, you may still be competent to sign Estate Planning documents. Your estate planning attorney will be able to make this determination by having a thorough consultation.

Below is a list of only some of the essential documents that everyone should consider…especially someone with a dementia diagnosis:

1.    Financial Power of Attorney

A financial power of attorney is an important estate planning document for someone who has been diagnosed with some form of dementia. A financial power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial decisions on your behalf once you become incapacitated. Without a financial power of attorney, your family may be unable to pay your bills or manage your household without possibly needing to go to court.  Having to obtain a Guardianship can be a time-consuming and expensive process.

2.    Health Care Power of Attorney

A health care power of attorney, like a financial power of attorney, allows you to nominate someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions. It will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out during at time in which you are unable to do so yourself. In general, a health care power of attorney takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning treatment.

3.    Living Will

A living will contains directions to refuse or remove life support in the event you are in a coma or a vegetative state or it may provide instructions to use all efforts to keep you alive, no matter what the circumstances. This is used in conjunction with your health care power of attorney.

4.    Will or Revocable Trust

In addition to making sure you have people to act for you and your wishes are clear, you should make sure you have a document that distributes your assets according to your wishes.  Your choices are a Will or a Revocable Trust.  Privacy, cost and easy of transferring assets are typical reasons why client choose a Trust over a Will.  Regardless, if you don’t have a written plan to distribute your estate, North Carolina (or your home state) has written one for you in the state statutes.  More likely than not, it doesn’t reflect your wishes. Although these documents play an intricate part in the development of your estate plan, there are many others documents that your experienced estate planning attorney should be able to provide you with to create a plan that best works for you.

If you or a loved one have received a diagnosis and you would like to start developing an appropriate plan that meets your needs, wishes, and goals, please call Sabrina Winters, Attorney at Law, PLLC at (704) 843-1446 or email us at swinters@sabrinawinterslaw.com. We help clients plan today for their family’s tomorrow.


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