Caring for an aging loved one can be challenging under any circumstances.  When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia, families are presented with a multitude of concerns about planning for their future.  While it is difficult to broach these subjects, it is critical that the family plan for their loved one’s future care and wishes concerning their estate.

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, dementia is a term used to describe diseases and conditions characterized by a decline in memory or other thinking skills that affect a person’s ability to perform everyday activities.  When a person is diagnosed with this type of condition their symptoms can exist on a continuum which ranges from mild to severe.

Under Michigan law, it is presumed that adults have the capacity to make decisions.  When an individual is diagnosed with dementia, it is not necessarily the case that they no longer hold this capacity.  Depending on their condition and the stage of their dementia, the person may be capable of making decisions concerning their estate, signing a will or trust, and designating others to make decisions on their behalf if they become incapacitated.

The law states that a person has sufficient mental capacity to make a will if:

(a) The individual has the ability to understand that he or she is providing for the disposition of his or her property after death.

(b) The individual has the ability to know the nature and extent of his or her property.

(c) The individual knows the natural objects of his or her bounty (this is a lawyer term meaning you must know the person or persons that you would be most likely to leave your estate – for example, your spouse or your children).

(d) The individual has the ability to understand in a reasonable manner the general nature and effect of his or her act in signing the will.

Likewise, a person executing a durable power of attorney for health care decisions must be of sound mind at the time a patient advocate designation is made. In the event that the individual meets these qualifications, they may be able to execute their own will and medical power of attorney.

In the event that the individual is not able to make their own decisions, the law allows for court appointment of a guardian and for the appointment of a conservator to manage their estate.  However, it is far preferable that the individual has the opportunity to make their own decisions and plans while they are able to do so.  The court process to provide for a guardian and conservator can be expensive, time-consuming and emotionally draining.  It can be easily avoided with some basic planning.

When a loved one has been diagnosed with this type of condition there may be time to act before it progresses to the point that they no longer can contribute fully to the decision-making process.  To adequately prepare for your loved one’s future needs and desires, the time to consult an experienced estate-planning attorney is now.  This will best ensure your loved ones and their wishes are provided with the attention and care they deserve.  Our office understands and has experience that can help. Contact us today.

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