Estate Planning Sign on A Wooden Pier

Estate Planning & Dementia: What You Should Consider 

Brazil Clark, PLLC Oct. 19, 2022

As Americans live longer through advances in medicine, from watching what they eat and drink, and in general from making better-informed decisions regarding their health, they not only add years to their lives but expose themselves to the late-life onset of cognitive impairment. The more one ages, the more that person becomes susceptible to the ravages of dementia and its most frightening manifestation, Alzheimer’s.   

According to the Alzheimer’s Association, about half of everyone who lives to 85 and beyond will contract the disease. Already, 5 million Americans suffer from Alzheimer’s, expecting to rise to 7 million just two years from now, in 2025.  

More than half of Americans put off estate planning – writing a will, creating a trust, and making other legal preparations for when the inevitable day arrives. If they wait until dementia sets in, not only does the time frame shorten for estate planning, but so does the urgency.  

While during the early stages of dementia, a person generally can still make sound decisions based on well-thought-through judgments, perhaps with help from others but the cognitive window can close rapidly. If the window closes too quickly, however, the person may no longer be “of sound mind” and unable to create and authorize legal documents on their own.  

That’s why it’s essential to complete the estate planning process or review and revise whatever you have while your encroaching cognitive impairment is still manageable. Most immediate is the need to create documents to authorize someone to manage your personal, financial, and health care needs when you no longer can do so yourself, as well as to create a will or trust to name beneficiaries for the distribution of your assets when you’re gone.  

If you or a loved one is facing dementia, you need to act quickly to create an estate plan or review and revise what you already have to ensure it will provide for you and your loved ones in all contingencies in the future.   

If you’re located in or around Nashville, Tennessee – or anywhere in Rutherford County – contact the estate planning attorney at Brazil Clark, PLLC, immediately to get started. Attorney Frank Brazil will help you conduct a comprehensive assessment of your needs and wishes for your loved ones, so you can create an estate plan that will stand the test of time – and the test of any legal challenges that may arise. 

Planning for Your Health Care Needs 

While the advance directive will cover you when it comes to medical treatment, who is going to take care of your finances and other personal affairs should you end up incapacitated?   

Here again, a durable power of attorney can be utilized, this time for financial and asset management purposes. A durable financial power of attorney names someone to take over the management of your estate – assets, investments, and bank accounts when you no longer can.  

Another way to authorize someone to look after your financial affairs is through the creation of a living trust. Like a last will and testament, a living trust allows you to name beneficiaries and designate which of your assets each beneficiary will receive. Unlike a will, however, which only takes effect after you pass away, the living trust takes effect immediately.  

Once you place your assets into the living trust, in a legal sense, they no longer belong to you. They’ve already been assigned to others, but since your trust is a “living” document, it allows you as the grantor or settlor of the trust to manage all the assets so long as you are physically and/or mentally capable of doing so.  

In other words, you are the trustee of the assets in the trust so long as you are up to the task physically and cognitively. If you become incapacitated or pass away, management of the trust passes to a successor trustee you’ve named in the legal document establishing the trust.  

 In certain circumstances, it may prove beneficial not only to name a successor in your living trust document but to award that person with a durable financial power of attorney. Check with your attorney.  

A power of attorney, it should be cautioned, will take effect immediately unless you word it in a way that it contains a “springing” authorization. In other words, you need to clearly specify when and under which circumstances the attorney-in-fact you name (who does not have to be an attorney but anyone you know and trust) will be allowed to exercise the powers granted by the document. Your incapacitation, for example, can “spring” the power of attorney into action. 

Practical and Compassionate Guidance 

If you or a loved one is facing the onset of dementia, the time to act is now if you don’t already have an estate plan, and even if you do, it’s vital to review and revise as necessary that very plan. If you’re a family member whose parent is showing signs of cognitive impairment, or has even received a diagnosis of dementia or the early stages of Alzheimer’s, you need to stress to your parent the urgency of planning for the future.   

Attorney Frank Brazil of Brazil Clark, PLLC stands ready to meet with you and your family to discuss a comprehensive estate plan to cover every aspect of life. You don’t want to leave your loved ones to make last-minute decisions when you can do so in advance and save everyone from the challenge and discomfort of – almost literally – deciding your fate.  

Reach out today if you’re in the Nashville area, and let’s get started on creating peace of mind for you and your loved ones through the establishment of an all-encompassing estate plan.