What Caregivers Need to Know About Estate Planning for a Loved One with Dementia

Author

Entrusted Legacy Law

For more information about the author, click to view their website: Entrusted Legacy Law

Posted on

Jan 11, 2024

Book/Edition

Pennsylvania - Greater Pittsburgh Area

Caring for a loved one with dementia is a challenge that millions of families undertake each year. As a caregiver, understanding how a dementia diagnosis affects your loved one’s legal decision-making is crucial to ensuring their wishes are honored and that you are providing them with the best possible care.

In this blog, we'll explore the importance of estate planning, even after a dementia diagnosis, as the best method to ensure the wishes and rights of your loved one are protected.


Understanding Incapacity

Dementia is a progressive condition that affects memory, cognition, and daily functioning. As dementia causes your loved one's cognitive abilities to decline, there may come a time when they are no longer able to make sound decisions about their finances, healthcare, and overall well-being. 

When the effects of dementia make it difficult for a person to understand information and make sound decisions, that person is considered to be incapacitated, which means they can no longer legally make healthcare or financial decisions for themselves. This change in their memory and cognition can be emotionally overwhelming for both your loved one and your whole family, and without proper planning, can require court involvement.

But, there’s still some good news. Thoughtful estate planning can ensure that your loved one is cared for by the people they know and trust if they can no longer care for themselves, and even if you’re loved one has already been diagnosed with dementia, it is still possible for them to create a legally-binding estate plan during the early stages of the disease.


Estate Planning In The Early Stages of Dementia

Every adult should create certain legal documents to protect their rights and wishes, and this is no different for a loved one with a dementia diagnosis. What is important to remember is that in order to create a legal document, you need to have mental capacity – meaning you need to be fully aware of what you are doing and what the consequences of your choices will be.

Thankfully, a person does not need to constantly be in a state of capacity to create an estate plan. As long as your loved one has the mental capacity at the moment they sign their estate plan documents, the documents will be valid, even if they regress into a state of incapacity afterward.

In the early stages of dementia, and ideally long before any health problems surface, your loved one should create the following estate planning documents:

General Durable Power of Attorney

A General Durable Power of Attorney (POA) is a legal tool that allows your loved one to appoint someone to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf. Their POA can write checks, pay bills, maintain their home, and manage their financial assets. 

This document becomes especially significant as dementia progresses. Encourage your loved one to designate a trusted individual as their Power of Attorney while they are still able to make such decisions. 

A Revocable Living Trust

A General Durable Power of Attorney is an important tool, but many financial institutions place constraints on the use of a POA or don’t acknowledge their authority at all. To make sure your loved one has complete protection of their financial wishes, encourage them to establish a Revocable Living Trust and move their assets into the name of the Trust. 

As part of creating a Trust, your loved one will name the person they want to manage their assets, called the Trustee. The Trustee and Power of Attorney are usually the same person, but not always. By having these two estate planning tools in place, you can rest assured that the people your loved one knows and loves will be able to manage their assets for them as their dementia progresses. 

Power of Attorney for Healthcare

Similar to a General Durable POA, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare (HPOA) appoints someone to make medical decisions on behalf of your loved one when they are unable to do so for themselves. Discussing and establishing a Healthcare Power of Attorney early on allows your loved one to express their medical preferences and ensures their wishes are honored. 

Their Power of Attorney for Healthcare should also include a Declaration to Physicians, also called a Living Will, that outlines their desires regarding medical treatment, life support, and end-of-life care. Creating a Declaration to Physicians and discussing their wishes with you ensures that their preferences regarding life-sustaining treatment, resuscitation, and other medical interventions are documented and respected.

Plan As Early As Possible

One of the most crucial steps in preparing for the challenges of dementia is to help your loved one complete their estate planning while they still have the capacity to do so. Waiting until the later stages of the disease can limit their options and increase stress for everyone involved. 

By addressing legal matters early on, you can ensure that your loved one's wishes are respected, and their affairs are managed.



As dementia progresses, estate planning must become more proactive and strategic than ever to avoid court and conflict over your loved one’s wishes in the future. If dementia becomes too advanced before planning is complete, the question of who will manage your loved one’s assets and care will be left to a judge who doesn’t know your loved one or their wishes.  Keep reading to learn what steps need to be considered when estate planning for someone with more advanced dementia.

Seek a Cognitive Evaluation

If your loved one’s cognitive capacity is in question, seeking a professional evaluation is a prudent and proactive step in the estate planning process. Schedule an appointment with your loved one's primary care physician or a specialist in dementia care to assess their mental state and make a recommendation on your loved one’s ability to make estate planning decisions.

During this evaluation, the medical professional will talk to your loved one and ask them questions about their everyday life, how aware they are of their circumstances, and what they would do in certain situations, such as if a stranger came to the door or if a pipe burst in their home. 

Your loved one doesn’t need to remember every detail about their life for the evaluation to be beneficial. The professional will be most concerned with your loved one’s ability to analyze a scenario and make a thoughtful decision on how to respond. For example, your loved one may not remember what day of the week it is but may remember they shouldn’t open the door for a stranger.

Receiving a report from your loved one’s doctor stating they have the cognitive ability to make estate planning decisions (at least when they are in a lucid state) protects their ability to make decisions for their finances and healthcare, and dissuades any future debate from third parties as to whether your loved one had the ability to make a plan in the first place.

Encourage Private Meetings Between Your Loved One and Their Lawyer

It may be second nature to help your loved one with appointments, especially if hearing and memory troubles make it difficult for your loved one to follow along. But as much as possible, allow your loved one to meet with their lawyer independently. A private meeting between your loved one and their lawyer will provide them with the opportunity to express their wishes without external influence. 

Even if you have your loved one’s best intentions at heart and they would prefer to have you present during the meetings, encouraging your loved one to have private conversations with their lawyer when possible helps avoid questions about whether or not you influenced their estate planning decisions.

If it isn’t feasible for your loved one to have an entire meeting with their lawyer alone, make sure they at least have opportunities to talk to their attorney in private by leaving the room while your attorney confirms their wishes.

Be sure to document every time your loved one meets alone with their lawyer and ask their lawyer to document it as well. 

Make Sure Their Estate Plan Is Executed Carefully

Unfortunately, errors that occur at the time an estate plan is signed are common. Every state has different laws for how estate planning documents are executed, how they can be signed, and what witnesses or notaries are required to make the document binding. 

If your loved one’s plan isn’t executed properly, it can result in your family needing to involve a judge to determine whether the estate plan is still valid. This also creates an opportunity for family members to question whether your loved one had the mental capacity to create the plan at all.

It’s also essential to document your loved one’s capacity at the time the estate plan documents are signed. Make sure that their lawyer reviews the documents carefully with your loved one before they sign them, that the documents reflect your loved one’s wishes, and that your loved one is creating the plan of their own free will.

If you have any concerns about other family members questioning your loved one’s estate planning decisions or mental state at the time, ask your loved one and their attorney if they could record the signing meeting to dispel any claims that your loved one was coerced into planning or didn’t know what they were signing. 

Conclusion

If your loved one received a dementia diagnosis and hasn’t addressed their legal matters, don't despair - but act fast. Even in the advanced stages of dementia, individuals may have moments when they can participate in decision-making and estate planning. But, due to the progressive nature of dementia, time is of the essence for your loved one to create an estate plan, and the sooner they plan, the easier it will be for them to get the help they need as their condition progresses.

In cases where your loved one’s capacity is severely diminished and estate planning hasn’t been completed, your family will need to pursue a court guardianship. This legal arrangement involves a court appointing a legal guardian who assumes responsibility for making decisions on behalf of the person with dementia. This process can be stressful, and it’s possible the court will appoint someone your loved one never would have wanted to manage their assets or healthcare decisions. 


Contact Entrusted Legacy Law at 412-347-1731 to schedule a complimentary 15-Minute call.

Other Articles You May Like

Lets Stay Together: Comparing Retirement Communities for Different Care Needs

Lets Stay Together: Comparing Retirement Communities for Different Care NeedsBy: Country Meadows |  Retirement CommunityCouples who have been together for decades have a deep bond and a desire to continue living together in a retirement community. When individual care needs vary, many retirement communities, such as Country Meadows, strive to support and accommodate these long-term relationships.Factors to keep in mind when comparing retirement communitiesLevels of care: Look for communities that provide various levels of assistance and support, such as independent living, personal care, memory support and skilled nursing, when comparing retirement communities. For example, if one member of a couple requires more assistance with activities of daily living, the retirement community may provide assistance with tasks such as bathing, dressing and medication management. At the same time, the other member of the couple may be able to live more independently and take advantage of social activities and amenities.Having several levels of care on the same campus can allow couples to continue living together while accessing the appropriate level of care for each individuals needs.Shared living: Inquire about policies regarding shared living arrangements for couples with different care needs when comparing retirement communities. Ask whether its possible for one partner to receive care and support within the same living unit or nearby, allowing the couple to remain together.Location: Consider the location when comparing retirement communities. Is it in a desirable area close to amenities, healthcare facilities and social activities? Think about your proximity to family and friends as well.Support services: When comparing retirement communities, consider the level of healthcare and support services available within the community. Does it have on-site healthcare professionals, access to medical care, assistance with activities of daily living and emergency response systems? Evaluate whether the community can meet current and future healthcare needs for both partners.Amenities and services: Assess the amenities and services offered when comparing retirement communities. Look for facilities offering things that are important to both individuals to meet varying hobbies and interests. These might include fitness centers, swimming pools, libraries, social and recreational activities, transportation services, housekeeping and maintenance. Determine which amenities are important to you and match your lifestyle.Dining options: Food is one of lifes great indulgences, so when comparing retirement communities, also compare meal quality. How many meals are offered each day? Are snacks and guest meals available? Are various dietary needs accommodated? Make arrangements to have a meal at retirement communities you are seriously considering to, literally, get a taste of that lifestyle.Housing options: When comparing retirement communities, explore the range of housing accommodations available, such as all-rental apartments, villas, townhomes or cottages. Consider the size, layout and features of the units. Evaluate whether the accommodations suit your preferences, offer enough room for two individuals and any potential future needs, such as accessibility or modifications.Financial considerations: When comparing retirement communities, you may come across many financial models which may be confusing. Understand the costs involved with each care level, including upfront fees, monthly rental and additional charges for services or amenities. Review the financial stability of the community and consider long-term affordability.Emotional and spiritual support: At Country Meadows, on-staff chaplains offer counseling and services honoring various spiritual traditions. When comparing retirement communities, look for those that provide emotional support and counseling for couples to help navigate the challenges and transitions of aging together.Community culture and activities: Understand the community culture and the types of activities and social events offered when comparing retirement communities. Attend community events to get a sense of the atmosphere and the opportunity to engage with other residents. Determine if the community aligns with your interests and promotes an active and fulfilling lifestyle.Resident feedback and reviews: Seek out feedback from current residents and their families and read online reviews. When comparing retirement communities, these simple inquiries can provide insights into the experiences of those already living in the community.Staff and management: When comparing retirement communities, you will probably meet with members of the marketing and management teams during your initial visit. Be sure to note their friendliness, responsiveness and professionalism. Inquire about staff-to-resident ratios and the availability of co-workers for assistance and support.By considering these factors, you can make a more informed decision when comparing retirement communities to find one that aligns with both partners lifestyle, preferences and needs. Its important to visit multiple locations, ask questions and involve both partners in the decision-making process to find the best fit.Country Meadows has nine locations in Pennsylvania and one campus in Frederick, Maryland. We offer a wide range of services to serve a variety of resident needs including restorative care, rehabilitation, personal care and assisted living, memory support and independent living services. If you or a loved one are beginning the retirement planning journey and would like more information about our communities, please contact us today. Were here to help.Country Meadows

Talking to your parents about Independent Living Communities

Talking to your parents about independent living communitiesBy: Country Meadows | cost of senior living, For Adult Children, Independent Living, Senior Living, senior living communitiesFor adults with aging parents, there are several difficult although necessary conversations that must be had around planning for the future. One of those conversations is about making the transition to senior living. And with multiple care factors to consider and a range of options for independent living communities to choose from, this discussion may seem all the more daunting. At Country Meadows, we have decades of experience in helping families make the right decisions for their senior living journey. Here of some ways to help ease into the conversation of planning for senior living.Find the right time and use the right toneWhen discussing sensitive subjects, especially ones so deeply personal, its best to enter the conversation knowing that it may not be easy for either yourself or your aging loved one. Be sure to find a time where there are no other distractions and you can sit down and have a meaningful experience. For instance, attempting to have this discussion during a family function or before an important event may cause clouded judgement as its already such a momentous time. If this is the very first time youll be having a conversation about independent living communities, these preparations can make all the difference in how your words are received. Its also important to understand there may be resistance from your parents or loved one when discussing independent living communities. If the discussion becomes emotional, be sure to stay calm while directing the conversation. Do your own research on independent living communitiesIts a good idea to walk into a situation prepared, and discussing independent living communities with your parents is no different. Researching amenities, activities and levels of available care if needed will help you provide solid answers when questions arise. Additionally, understanding the differences in pricing among the many independent living communities available will help you be realistic about what options are affordable. Once your parents are ready to be a part of the process, youll already be prepared for a more positive prospecting experience.   Anticipate what your parents are looking for in independent living communitiesWhile your parents or elders may not have explicitly expressed what theyre looking for in a senior living community experience, there are reference points that can help you understand what they may need from independent living communities. For instance, gauging their level of independence will be important when it comes to determining the type of care that theyll need now or in the future and this may differ from what your parents feel their level of independence is. Knowing, however, what aspects within the independent living communities youre researching may bring a compromise between your points of view. This can help to keep these conversations respectful of what you feel is best and also what your parents wishes are. If you know that your parents are social, active or enjoy dining out often, leading your research with independent living communities that feature those amenities can be a great entry point.  Be ready to have multiple discussionsRome wasnt built in a day, and its very likely that planning retirement wont happen in a single sitting either. There are many aspects that go into making a decision on senior living. Between the initial conversation, understanding the options available, visiting prospective campuses and financial considerations, there will be a lot of time invested in the process. Outside of these factors, the emotional aspects may leave you having to revisit this conversation with your loved ones either when theyre ready to think about independent living communities or when theyre willing to at least continue the discussion. Being able to listen and empathize will be very important in ensuring that everyone feels respected and heard.Ultimately, understanding your parents emotional needs in addition to their physical needs will be crucial in navigating these difficult conversations effectively. And when youre ready to make a decision on independent living communities, Country Meadows is here to help. With nine locations in Pennsylvania and one in Frederick, Maryland, Country Meadows has consistently been recognized as one of the best independent living communities for seniors. Not only are our independent living communities affordable, but theyre also designed for each resident to feel connected to neighbors while still having space all their own. Our campuses are pet friendly, as well, so residents can bring their furry friends along. In addition to independent living communities, Country Meadows also offers many different services including memory support, rehabilitation services, assisted living and personal care as well as restorative care options. With this comprehensive approach, our independent living communities are able to give a range of care to all residents. If you or a loved one are looking for more information on independent living communities or specifically more information on Country Meadows, contact us today. We can help you learn more about the services we offer, schedule a tour of our independent living communities and answer any questions you may have. We look forward to hearing from you.  

Keeping Independent Senior Living Costs Affordable

Keeping Independent Senior Living Costs AffordableBy: Country Meadows |  Independent LivingAs people plan for the future, one common goal among older adults is to maintain independence in the comfort of their own homes for as long as possible. However, life is unpredictable, and there may come a time when seniors find themselves in need of a little extra support with everyday tasks or simply crave companionship. Independent living is designed for seniors who are generally healthy and active, but prefer a community setting that offers convenience, social engagement with others and amenities such as meals or recreational activity programs. Independent senior living costs can vary widely based on several factors such as location, amenities, additional services provided and type of housing.Housing typeThe type of housing a senior chooses can significantly impact independent senior living costs. When seeking information on various types of housing, seniors will find options that may include apartments, cottages, condominiums or single-family homes. Larger or more luxurious accommodations typically come at a cost with higher fees.LocationParticular geographic areas can influence overall expenses. Independent senior living in urban or high-demand locations will have higher costs than those in rural areas, as is the case in private homes or rental properties. For example, independent senior living in New York City will come at a much higher rate than living in rural Pennsylvania.AmenitiesIndependent senior living costs often include a range of amenities and services such as fitness centers, activities programs, housekeeping, laundry and transportation services. The more extensive and upscale the amenities, the higher the cost may be. Consider which amenities are important to you and your loved one when choosing senior living accommodations.Meal plansSome independent living communities offer meal plans as part of their services. The cost of these plans can vary based on the number of meals provided each day as well as dining options available, such as special meals where premium menu items such as filet mignon or lobster are offered.Utilities and maintenanceIndependent senior living costs may include utilities and maintenance services in their fees, as is the case at Country Meadows Retirement Communities. Others may have separate charges for these services, which is why its essential to clarify items included in the monthly fee.Healthcare servicesWhile independent living is designed for seniors who are relatively healthy, some communities offer healthcare services or have arrangements with healthcare providers and vendors such as nursing agencies and medical specialists. Additional healthcare services may come with extra costs.Community fees and depositsThere are several different types of senior living communities, and with those come a wide variety of costs. A Continuing Care Retirement Community, also known as a CCRC, may require a large entrance fee for admission as well as a monthly charge to guarantee service availability at every level of care. Other senior living facilities may require a community fee in addition to monthly charges. This fee may cover administrative costs, reserve funds or contribute to community improvements.Social and recreational activitiesAccess to social and recreational activities may be included in the monthly fee at some senior living communities, such as Country Meadows Vibe program. Some independent senior living costs might include higher fees for organized events, outings, entertainment, classes and fitness services.Transportation servicesTransportation services for medical appointments, shopping trips and social outings may be included in independent senior living pricing at some communities. At other locations, transportation services may be billed separately depending on a variety of factors such as distance and time of day.Security and safety featuresIndependent senior living costs typically include secured building entrances and 24-hour emergency response systems in private apartments. Additional security features which might incur higher fees are 24/7 medical alert systems and security personnel, which can significantly impact cost.Its crucial for seniors and their families to thoroughly review the costs of each community. Additionally, considering the long-term financial implications, including any potential increases in fees, is important when evaluating the affordability of senior independent living.Stop by one of Country Meadows Retirement Communities nine campuses in Pennsylvania or one in Frederick, Md., to pay us a visit. For information about any of our locations or services, or to ask a Question, please reach out to our expert advisors. Were here to help! Country Meadows

Local Services By This Author

Entrusted Legacy Law

Elder Law 100 Pinewood Lane Suite #303, Warrendale, Pennsylvania, 15086

Our Firm Prepares You for Life What makes our firm different is that we were built with the needs of growing families in mind. We understand you are BUSY, you are growing, you are planning for a life of prosperity and you value ease, convenience and efficiency. You are raising children, and caring for elderly parents, while also working hard to build your own nest egg for a lifetime of support. You want to know youve made the best decisions for your family and that your plan will work when your loved ones need it most. You want to make sure your minor children would be raised by the people you choose, and never by anyone you wouldnt want, and that your teens and adult children are properly prepared to care for you and what you leave behind.  You want to feel confident that youve made the right choices, and handled everything so that you arent leaving behind a mess, when something happens. That is our focus as well. Weve developed unique systems to give you the same access to a Personal Family Lawyer as was previously only available to the super-wealthy, so you can have the guidance you need to build and maintain a life of prosperity and wealth. And, to keep your family out of court and out of conflict, which is the greatest risk to the people you love and all you have created, even if youve already worked with a traditional lawyer or created documents online. Our Team Is Here for You We encourage communication with our clients. In fact, weve thrown out the time clocks so you never have to be afraid to call with a quick question. Everything we do is billed on a flat-fee basis, agreed to in advance, so there are never any surprises. We have a whole team to serve you. When you call our office to ask your quick question, you wont have to wait hours or days for a phone call back. Youll get your question answered, right away. And, if you need to schedule a more in-depth legal or strategic call with your Personal Family Lawyer, a call will be scheduled when you're both available and ready for the call so we can make the very best use of your time and not waste your time by leaving voicemail after voicemail back and forth. And, we ensure the most important details of your planning are followed through on and your plan continues to work throughout your lifetime. We have a funding coordinator to ensure your assets are owned the right way throughout your lifetime and none of your assets will end up going through a long, expensive court process or being lost to the state because they were missed after your death. Weve created unique membership programs to keep your plan up to date year in and year out as well as give you access to our Trusted Team of Legal Experts for guidance on ANY legal or financial matter. One day you will need a lawyer. I dont know why and I dont know when, but when you do, you will be grateful you can call on us and well be here to advise you or get you out of a jam. We Help You Transfer Your Life and Legacy Lastly, we believe your financial wealth is only a small part of your overall Life and Legacy Planning which is made up of your far more valuable and most often lost upon incapacity or death intellectual, spiritual and human assets. These assets are what make you who you are, and sum up whats most important to you. And, a survey of inheritors has revealed that what they care about even more than inheriting your money, is inheriting these intangible assets.   Most estate plans only focus on the transfer of your financial wealth to the next generation. Most people have such great intentions of passing on the intangible, but very few ever get around to it. Its just not a priority, until its too late. How much do you know about your grandparents values? Their most prized personal possessions? How they felt about you? What they had learned during their lifetime? If you are like most people, you know very little. Thats why we build the capture and passage of these most valuable assets into every estate plan we create. Not only will we help you pass on your money, but also your values, your insights, your stories and your experience the truly valuable assets your loved ones care about the most.  Weve developed a tool that allows us to capture and pass on your whole family wealth, including your Intellectual, Spiritual and Human assets.  I cant go into all of the details here, but well definitely talk about it when you come in for your Life and Legacy Planning Session.