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Can I do estate planning when I have dementia?

If you have recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or another form of dementia, you may be grieving and feeling overwhelmed. There is a lot you need to do, and you are unsure how much time you have to do it. One of your concerns might be whether you can still do estate planning. For example, if you draw up a will, would a court recognize it since you made it after your diagnosis?

The good news is that if you are in the early stages of dementia, you probably understand what you are doing and can undertake comprehensive estate planning. That minimizes the chances of legal issues down the road. Even if your dementia (or your loved one's dementia) is fairly bad, estate planning is still beneficial and you may be able to participate.

Legal capacity

The legal documents involved in estate planning carry varying degrees of importance, and a lawyer should determine if you have the legal capacity to sign a specific document. Otherwise, someone could theoretically challenge it in court. Your lawyer probably needs to talk with you, your doctor(s) and possibly some others to analyze your legal capacity, and it can vary from day to day and from document to document.

Areas of focus

Areas you may want to focus on include finance, health care, long-term care, legal planning such as power of attorney and advance directives. For example, an advance directive gives you the opportunity to determine the direction of your medical care in some situations and any end-of-life wishes you have. Power of attorney means granting someone the ability to make decisions on your behalf if you are no longer able to do so.

Yes, all of these areas may seem overwhelming. Each person has different priorities and different areas to tackle first. One person may want to focus on ensuring assets are there for heirs, while another might prefer to first focus on long-term care opportunities. With the help of a lawyer, it should be a fairly smooth process to take care of many areas.

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