Disabilities that sometimes develop with age can inhibit long-term planning skills. If you deal with such a condition, you may need to adjust your plans for the future so that they can support you and adhere to your wishes under any circumstance.
The best advice is simply to start early. If Alzheimer’s or another form of dementia runs in your family, it is never too soon to meet with an attorney and start planning your estate. It is much easier to modify existing arrangements than it is to create them from nothing in the face of a crisis.
However, such foresight is not always possible. If you have already developed medical concerns that affect your memory or planning abilities, don’t despair. You will simply need to make a few adjustments and rely on the support of those you trust to help with the process.
Call upon a dependable family member, spouse, partner or friend for help with the legal side of estate planning. The sooner you begin, the more you will be able to decide independently. In most cases, your involvement will eventually come to rely on legal capacity. If a person has the legal capacity to sign a document or make an important decision, he or she can understand all the elements involved and the consequences the decision or document may have. Estate-planning steps vary in their complexity, so your attorney will help to determine your legal capacity for each step.
Discuss guardianship/conservatorship and powers of attorney with the lawyer assisting you with your plans. Ensure that you choose a trusted person who can make your financial, legal and health care decisions if you ever become unable to do so. You may also find a living will or living trust helpful. These documents allow you to state your wishes (for your health care and property, respectively) confidently and concretely. They help protect those wishes if you ever become unable to articulate them in the future.
When you struggle with a condition that affects memory, estate planning can seem overwhelming and intimidating. But with an experienced, patient legal team and a team of your own supportive loved ones, you can move through the process smoothly, then take confidence in your plans. With an estate plan in place, you can prepare for whatever the future brings.