Millions of Americans, and their families, are affected by the devastating consequences of Alzheimer’s disease and dementia.
As the population gets older, the number of people who are affected by Alzheimer’s disease continues to grow. When you or a loved one learns that you have Alzheimer’s disease, the realization can often prompt you to ask yourself a lot of questions. This is especially true if you haven’t taken any steps towards creating an estate plan. While Alzheimer’s disease is a significant medical condition that can impact your ability to create an effective plan, it is not necessarily something that will prevent you from doing so.
Alzheimer’s Disease Stages
The first thing you should understand about Alzheimer’s disease is that it is not a single condition, but rather a spectrum of conditions that affects cognitive abilities.
For example, someone in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease might only experience periodic memory loss, bouts of confusion, or other cognitive symptoms. On the other hand, someone in the advanced stages of the disease will likely have significant cognitive impairments and will be unable to manage even the simplest of daily activities.
Estate Planning Capacity
In order to create an estate plan you must be able to make choices. This ability is known as capacity. The law presumes that every adult has the capacity to make decisions. While children are limited from making legally binding decisions, capable adults can make choices about what they want to happen to them, and their property, in the future. Making these decisions in a legally recognized manner is what estate planning is all about.
However, it is possible to lose capacity. People who suffer from medical conditions that rob them of their ability to make decisions cannot create an estate plan because they do not have the legal ability to choose.
Alzheimer’s and Estate Plans
So, while it’s possible that having Alzheimer’s disease can interfere with your ability to make an estate plan, it isn’t guaranteed. Many people with Alzheimer’s disease can make estate planning decisions. The important thing to remember is that you must have the requisite mental capacity in order to be able to do this.
Determining whether you are legally capable of making choices is something that often requires the assistance of experts. For example, if you have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, you will need to speak to your physician about your diagnosis. Your physician will be able to determine what capabilities you have. Similarly, once your physician has made the determination about your mental faculties, you can then consult with an attorney about how you can best create estate planning devices. If it’s not you suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, but someone else, a similar process will be required.
In any regard, you should always talk your estate planning attorney if you have questions about estate planning in the face of any cognitive impairment.