Helping your aging parents through the estate planning process and talking through their end-of-life wishes already brings up a lot of heavy emotions. If your loved one recently learned of their Alzheimer’s or other dementia diagnosis, the weight of estate planning might feel especially burdensome.
Familiarizing yourself with how to protect your family’s assets as you navigate this new medical diagnosis with your parent can help alleviate stress in the long run.
How dementia can impact estate planning
Your parents must agree to and sign certain legal documents while still having the “legal capacity to make decisions on their own. This means that they still fully understand the decisions they are making for their finances and estate planning. Your parents can no longer form or modify an estate plan if dementia progresses too far.
Types of applicable legal documents
Advance health care directives go into effect after your parents can no longer make decisions on their own. These legal documents outline your parent’s health care wishes.
A living will describes how and when your parents want different types of end-of-life care, including specific medical procedures, choices regarding organ donation and personal values such as religious or spiritual care. A medical power of attorney designates a person to make healthcare decisions on behalf of your parents with dementia. If your parent wishes, a doctor can sign a do not resuscitate order (DNR) to instruct health care professionals not to resuscitate your parent if their heart or breathing stops.
Other legal documents can help with financial and estate management. These advance directives include a will and a durable power of attorney for finances.
Since Alzheimer’s or related dementia can progress, having your parent make these decisions soon may help avoid probate court intervention later.