No one is fully prepared to hear that their mental capacity is declining.  Depending on when a physician is consulted it may be that the patient is in the early stages of a mentally debilitating condition or their illness may be more advanced.  For others, it may be that their mental health is not diminished, but they want to be prepared if they unexpectedly lose their mental capacity.  Whatever the circumstances, the time to prepare for mental incapacity is now.

For families with a loved one facing imminent or distant possible incapacity, there is the option of looking into a guardianship and conservatorship.  A guardian is a person appointed by the probate court to look out for a person’s personal needs such as where they live and receive medical care.  A conservator, also appointed by the probate court, will be responsible for looking out for the person’s financial interest.  In many cases, the guardian and conservator are the same people.  Seeking a guardian and conservator essentially takes the incapacitated person out of the decision-making process.  Depending on the person’s condition and ability to be autonomous, this may or may not be the best option.  There is also the added burden and expense of involving the court in the care of a loved one.

Before getting into the guardianship and conservatorship processes it would be prudent to consider putting certain preliminary decision-making documents in place while your loved one still can do so.  Creating financial powers of attorneys, durable powers of attorneys, health care powers of attorneys, and living wills before incapacity will help the individual make their own choices about their care and who will make decisions for them.  Further, these devices may allow the person to maintain more autonomy than guardianship and conservatorship.

Assessing your circumstances regarding long-term care would also be advisable.  For those not diagnosed with an incapacitating or other serious medical condition, there may be time to procure a long-term care insurance policy.  These policies cover personal long-term care services which are often necessary for those who lack capacity.  For individuals who do not have or cannot obtain this coverage, it may be necessary to consider Medicaid eligibility.

Planning for your estate before incapacity will help ensure that your wishes concerning your assets are in place.  Waiting to draft a will or create a trust could be problematic if a person begins to show signs of incapacity as these documents could be contested or challenged by beneficiaries.

Our office has experienced attorneys who are knowledgeable about these issues and can help you determine how to best prepare for the future.  Please contact us online or by phone if we may be of assistance.

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