Estate planning is essential for those experiencing cognitive decline.
I have yet to meet anyone with the condition of Benjamin Button.
People get older, not younger.
It is an undeniable fact of life.
According to a recent Think Advisor article titled “Don’t Let Cognitive Decline Derail Well-Laid Financial Plans,” estate planning is essential for aging individuals.
In the decades since 2000, the median age in America has increased by 3.4 years.
The most significant gain occurred in 2021, with an increase of 0.3 years and a median age of 38.8 years.
For reference, the median age in 1960 was 29.5 years.
As people age, new financial, physical, and mental challenges arise.
Those with diminished mental capacity have a greater risk of falling for negative influences or scams.
Often these demand timely and effective estate planning to protect from the adverse effects of these changes and challenges.
Cognitive decline is one area experienced estate planning attorneys address in their work.
When a person shows signs of cognitive decline or has been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, time should not be wasted.
This person should take estate planning action as soon as possible.
Why is this important?
To sign legal documents, a person must have the e mental capacity to do so.
By delaying the process, people risk being unable to express their wishes or legally sign the documents they need.
Additionally, estate planning involves incapacity planning.
Not moving promptly in estate planning means the person will be more vulnerable and require more court involvement.
If no power of attorney documents are signed, the court must select a guardian, perhaps even a professional guardian.
Although professional guardians are legally bound to fiduciary duties, some have been known to not act in their ward’s best interests.
Many stories have come to light of guardians appointed by the courts using their authority to commit financial or emotional abuse.
Incapacity planning documents should include an advance health care directive, HIPAA Authorization, and a general durable power of attorney.
Married couples commonly select their spouses to manage these affairs.
Also, contingent agents should be designated should the original agent pass away or be unable to serve.
While some people select their adult children as these agents, other family dynamics may require responsible and trustworthy friends to serve.
In addition to incapacity planning documents, those experiencing early stages of cognitive decline should create a last will and testament or a revocable living trust to facilitate the distribution of property to intended heirs.
Work with an experienced estate planning attorney without delay to get your affairs in order.
Reference: Think Advisor (April 21, 2023) “Don’t Let Cognitive Decline Derail Well-Laid Financial Plans”