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Dementia: Consequences Of Failing To Do An Estate Plan

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A diagnosis of dementia, or other cognitive impairment, all too often leads to denial on the part of the person who is affected and on their families as well.

By Linda T. Cammuso, Esquire

A diagnosis of dementia, or other cognitive impairment, all too often leads to denial on the part of the person who is affected and on their families as well.

Sadly, statistics indicate that people living with cognitive impairment is said to equal more than 16 million people in the United States. Cognitive impairment includes: Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, and brain injuries among others. Strangely, most of us know about these statistics as we are constantly reminded through advertising; yet, we fail to plan ahead and that is a grave mistake.

An estate plan will secure the future. People who receive a dementia diagnosis should deal with legal, financial and personal issues immediately while they are still competent and able to meaningfully direct their own decisions.

If you are dealing with dementia, consider taking the two steps to immediately help overcome future legal and financial obstacles: Tell your family — or at least key family members who will be involved with your legal and financial affairs, and put estate planning at the top of your to-do-list.

As emotional as a family meeting might be, it is necessary to discuss your wishes about medical care, who you want to manage your financial affairs when you can no longer do so, and end-of-life issues. Keep in mind that while dementia does not usually mean that you are in immediate danger of death, your days of meaningfully participating in decisions may be numbered.

Talking to loved ones about your future while you are still able is critically important. If you feel that family dynamics might interfere with the discussion, your attorney may be able to help.

Step two involves scheduling an appointment with an attorney who specializes in estate planning and elder law. Some of the items you discussed with your family will also come into play when you meet with the attorney.

Be prepared to discuss substitute decision making such as who will make medical and financial decisions for you when you can no longer do so; options for managing your assets while you are living; the disposition of your assets upon your death; and long-term care options for financing health care costs.

Overall, failing to do an estate plan can have serious unintended consequences including unnecessary taxes, loss of assets to creditors and nursing homes and incorrect disposition of assets among your beneficiaries. The possibility of nursing home care could also make it difficult to do lifetime gifting without running afoul of the Medicaid five-year look back.

On the personal side, life and death decisions could end up in the hands of a stranger or family member you’d rather not have involved.

Creating your estate plan will have another important benefit: Peace of mind, both for you and your loved ones. Don’t procrastinate, call an estate planning attorney today.

Linda T. Cammuso is a founding partner of Estate Preservation Law Offices located in Worcester, Massachusetts. She is a skilled estate planning and elder law attorney and has authored many articles on elder care and long term estate planning issues. She has appeared on Money Matters Radio and has been a speaker for various community and professional organizations. 


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