Estate Planning in the age of Alzheimer’s

What will you do if a parent or other loved one is diagnosed with a disease, like Alzheimer’s, that will destroy that person’s ability to make decisions?  Who will make medical decisions for your mom, if she didn’t sign a medical power of attorney?  Who will sign the necessary paperwork if dad must be moved into a memory care facility, if he didn’t sign a statutory durable power of attorney?  What will happen to your parents' estate if they didn’t sign wills?

If this situation arises, you need to act quickly.  This can be difficult if the person in question is your parent, but you must do what you can to protect them.  A person must be mentally competent to sign a binding contract, will, or other similar document.  Once a person loses that competency, it is too late to do any estate planning.  We strongly urge all our clients to sign basic estate planning documents (a will, a statutory durable power of attorney, a medical power of attorney, and a directive to physicians) now.

Once a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer's, or a similar disease, you need to determine if they have the appropriate estate planning documents in place.  If estate planning documents have not been signed, be sure to have the treating physician document that the patient is still mentally competent at that time, if at all possible.  Then, complete any necessary estate planning as soon as possible, before competency is lost forever.  Time is of the essence.

Without estate planning documents in place, it is likely that a family member will need to go to court at some point and ask the Judge to appoint them as the guardian of the person and of the estate of the stricken family member.  This time-consuming and costly process can be avoided with some timely planning.  The documents we have listed will give a trusted family member the authority needed, in most cases, to deal with the issues that will arise after a diagnosis of Alzheimer's, or a similar disease.