A person is generally capable of updating their will until their death. Sometimes, however, extenuating circumstances can arise that affect their ability to make sound judgements. In cases such as these, a person may have to take action in protecting their own will from themselves.
One of the most common examples of this is when a person is diagnosed with dementia.
Dementia is a category of brain diseases that causes long-term effects on the mind, gradually decreasing function. Initial symptoms include increased forgetfulness. Eventually, emotions, communication abilities, body functions, and motivation are all affected.
The most common form of dementia is Alzheimer’s disease. Alzheimer’s affects around 5.5 million people in the US. While the vast majority of these people are over 65, early-onset Alzheimer’s can be found in younger ages.
Initial diagnosis of any form of dementia can be difficult, as early symptoms are similar to natural signs of aging. Nevertheless, if you think you might have dementia, it’s important that you take steps to establish and protect your will.
Telling your family that you have dementia isn’t easy, but it’s something they need to know. As symptoms worsen, it will begin to affect your interactions with them. You should also discuss your plans for your will while you’re able to effectively communicate with them.
Most likely, one of them will assume power attorney. If that’s the case, you should also speak directly with them and make sure they understand your intentions.
Granting power of attorney is common among most wills, regardless of the condition of the will maker. Often, power of attorney is not activated until the death of the person creating the will. In the case of dementia, however, this person will likely assume their role earlier once you pass the point of legal capacity.
Often, this person is a family member, but they do not have to be. This person is referred to as an agent or attorney-in-fact.
Legal capacity is an important term to understand in the event of having dementia. It refers to your ability to understand the consequences of your actions and decisions as it pertains to managing your estate.
Once you pass this point, you will no longer be able to independently make changes to your will. Instead, that power will go to your attorney-in-fact. Establishing this threshold can be difficult, and it should be discussed in detail with your attorney.
You should always seek professional legal council in forming a will. Mistakes in will creation can lead to loopholes and potentially render a will non-binding. In the case of dementia, it’s even more important that you have an attorney who knows what they’re doing.
For an experienced family lawyer in Springfield, Ohio, contact the offices of Michael T. Edwards today.