Planning Ahead

Photo: Gus Moretta, Unsplash

People don’t like to consider the finality of their death.  That’s just the reality.  This is one of the leading reasons why people procrastinate against end of life planning.  Once you receive a dementia diagnosis, is it too late?  This is a question we’re often asked, and the stress of a diagnosis adds to the worry that people have when they feel that they’ve waited too long.  Don’t worry- there is still planning that can be done.

Wills and powers of attorney are among the most important documents you will ever sign.  They grant power to whoever will receive your property, and carry on your legacy.  If there are minor children, it is important to plan for you will care for your children after your death.  Without a will, families can spend years in court and incur significant expenses trying to determine the intentions for your estate.  Having a will doesn’t mean that it can never be changed.  In fact, it is a good idea to revisit a will when circumstances change, and adjust as needed.

Receiving a dementia diagnosis is a good time to revisit a will, or plan to complete one if it hasn’t yet been done.  While it isn’t necessary to use a lawyer to complete a will, it can put your mind at ease that it will be valid and enforceable.  In a world of YouTube, Google and other influences, the world has become a do-it-yourself prospect for almost anything.  Under the theory that having something is always better than not having anything, having a DIY will is better than nothing.  However, it’s generally considered cheap insurance to have a will drafted properly.  The implications of unsuccessful succession planning run far and wide within families and potentially businesses, and it’s not necessary to spend a lot of money to get it right.

When a loved one is diagnosed with dementia, it is even more important to ensure that paperwork is in order.  As a loved one’s condition deteriorates, so that they lose capacity, they will lose their voice to make their wishes known.  The test for whether someone has capacity to sign a will may differ from a capacity assessment for other purposes.  It is worth checking in your location specifically, but in many places, it is simply the test of whether they understand that they are making a will, for dealing with their property after they die.

With a power of attorney, as a loved one living with dementia loses the ability to make decisions related to their health, it is important that they feel comfortable appointing someone who knows them best and will respect their wishes.  Everyone will feel relieved once a plan is in place.  A person living with dementia knowing their finances will be handled appropriately after their ability is lost will bring comfort to them.  The sooner this can be done while the PLWD still can provide directions, the better.

If the PLWD has run a business, owns shares in private companies or investment properties etc., this discussion should include a business partner or other trusted advisor who can ensure the succession of the businesses in the event of the person’s incapacity.  These transitions require some thought and care.  The individual that may be appointed as a power of attorney is not always the same person who should be appointed to make business decisions.  If there is a partner in the business, they need to be part of the discussions early on.  Shareholder agreements are important succession planning tools for all business owners, and take on increased prominence upon the incapacity of one of the owners.

Speak to your trusted lawyer and estate planner to make the best plan for your circumstances.  It doesn’t need to be complicated, but it should be relevant and comprehensive.  Speak to us for recommendations!