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Join Us Each Thursday Morning in June!
Starting Thursday, June 6th 10:30am-11:30am. Click HERE & RSVP Today!
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loving couple in garden patio

Legal Planning Essentials When a Loved One Has Dementia

Navigating estate planning for the first time is challenging, especially for families managing dementia diagnoses

To support these families, The Kensington Reston hosted “Legal Planning Essentials When Your Loved One Has Dementia,” a unique sip & learn event presented by Legacy Lawyers of Reston, Virginia.

This was an evening of enlightenment and camaraderie, where expert attorneys unraveled the complexities of wills, trusts, and more. 

This event offered a blend of valuable legal insights and a chance to connect with those on a similar journey. 

Our promise is to love and care for your family as we do our own.

How dementia can complicate legal matters

Dementia significantly impacts a person’s decision-making capacity and cognition, often leading to challenges in understanding and managing complicated legal affairs. 

As cognitive abilities decline, the ability to comprehend complex legal documents, make informed decisions, and even recall personal wishes and preferences can diminish. 

This reduced mental capacity poses risks and legal implications, particularly concerning estate planning, financial management, and healthcare decisions.

Action steps for addressing legal challenges in dementia care

  1. Establish legal directives early: Engage in estate planning while the individual with dementia can still express their preferences. This includes drafting or updating wills, setting up trusts, and making clear healthcare directives.
  2. Protect against financial risks: Implement safeguards to prevent financial exploitation and mismanagement. This could involve setting up a durable power of attorney for finances, establishing a conservatorship if necessary, and regularly reviewing financial accounts.
  3. Designate decision-makers: Identify and legally authorize someone, such as a family member or a trusted friend, to make important decisions through a durable power of attorney for healthcare. This ensures decisions align with the individual’s wishes if they become unable to communicate them.
  4. Seek legal counsel: Consult with attorneys specializing in elder law to navigate the complexities of legal planning for someone with dementia. They can provide guidance tailored to your specific situation and help ensure all legal documents are valid and enforceable.
  5. Regularly review and update legal documents: As the condition progresses and circumstances change, it’s important to review and, if necessary, update legal documents. This ensures that they continue to reflect the current wishes and needs of the individual with dementia.

Key legal documents to establish after a dementia diagnosis

When caring for someone with dementia, certain legal documents become vital in safeguarding their interests and ensuring their wishes are respected, as well as ensuring a smoother process for the family should legal matters eventually need to be addressed. 

The will

A will is fundamental in estate planning, particularly for individuals with dementia. It delineates how they want their assets distributed after their passing. 

This document is vital to ensure that their estate is managed according to their wishes, which is particularly important as their ability to communicate preferences might diminish over time.

Power of attorney (POA)

This document is essential for managing financial and legal affairs. 

By appointing a power of attorney, individuals with dementia can ensure that someone they trust has the authority to handle their financial matters, such as managing bank accounts and investments, and make legal decisions on their behalf. 

This is crucial as their cognitive abilities decline, making it challenging for them to manage these affairs independently.

Healthcare directives 

Also known as a living will or advance directive, healthcare directives play a critical role in medical decision-making. 

They outline the individual’s preferences regarding medical treatments and interventions in situations where they might be unable to communicate their wishes, such as requiring a ventilator/intubation. 

These directives guide family members and healthcare providers in making decisions that align with the individual’s values and preferences.

Working with legal and financial professionals: a step-by-step comprehensive guide for caregivers

By following these steps and collaborating with the right professionals, you can ensure that all legal and financial matters are comprehensively addressed, safeguarding the interests and wishes of your loved one with dementia.

Find legal and financial professionals

  • Elder Law Attorney: Specializes in issues related to aging and dementia. Legacy Lawyers is our recommended firm located in Virginia and the host of our event.
  • Financial Advisor: Expert in managing assets, investments, and planning for long-term care costs.

Gather essential documents

When preparing for legal and financial planning in dementia care, gathering essential documents is an essential first step. 

The following is a comprehensive list of legal and financial documents to sort out.

Legal Documents:

  • Last will and testament
  • Durable Power of Attorney for finances
  • Durable Power of Attorney for healthcare
  • A living will or advance healthcare directive
  • Trust documents (if any)
  • Guardianship or conservatorship arrangements
  • Deeds and property titles
  • Marriage or divorce certificates (if applicable)

Financial Documents:

  • Bank statements (checking and savings accounts)
  • Investment accounts (stocks, bonds, mutual funds)
  • Retirement accounts (401(k), IRA, pensions)
  • Life insurance policies
  • Long-term care insurance policies
  • Tax returns from most recent years
  • Social security statements
  • Debt records (mortgages, loans, credit cards)

What to do once documents are gathered

Legal Consultation:

  • Review and update existing legal documents.
  • Discuss establishing or updating a trust.
  • Talk about guardianship or conservatorship needs.

Financial Planning:

  • Assess current financial status and future needs.
  • Develop a strategy for long-term care funding.
  • Consider potential tax implications and ways to optimize assets.

Executing Legal Directives:

  • Formalize and sign updated legal documents.
  • Establish or modify trusts as needed.

Financial Adjustments:

  • Make necessary changes to investment portfolios.
  • Adjust insurance policies or purchase new ones as needed.

Regular Review and Updates

  • Schedule periodic meetings with both the attorney and financial advisor to review and update legal and financial plans as the situation evolves.

Plan with financial confidence at The Kensington Reston

Explore the exceptional care and support offered at The Kensington Reston, a premier assisted living and memory care community in Reston, Virginia. 

Our team is dedicated to providing top-tier memory care and assisted living services, guided by Our Promise to love and care for your family as we do our own.

Discover our vibrant senior life enrichment programs, upscale dining services, and specialized Alzheimer’s care. To learn more or schedule a visit or a tour of our community, contact The Kensington Reston today.

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