The time following a dementia diagnosis can be stressful and confusing. However, it is crucial to plan your financial and legal future for your ease of mind. Romain Coleman details the steps you should take after your diagnosis.
As your condition worsens, limitations will increase, preventing you from being fully independent. We understand that this can be difficult to process. At Romain Coleman, our expert solicitors work with you to make sure your needs are met when the time comes. We want to make sure that you thoroughly understand your options and feel secure, knowing you will have access to the available support and services.
Here are the steps you should take to plan your financial and legal future after your diagnosis.
Firstly, enquire about any benefits you could be entitled to claim as a result of your diagnosis. Your local Citizens Advice Bureau can do a full check of entitlement with you, so you know you are getting everything that is available. If you are feeling overwhelmed over the prospect of what you are entitled to, you may also get in contact with a professional welfare advisor at your local authority or arrange a home visit from the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions) to help you with your benefit claim.
Setting up your benefits payments is an easy way to ensure you get the payment you need. The easiest option is probably to have your benefits paid directly into a bank or building society account. You can ask someone to temporarily operate a bank account for you, by filling in a third part mandate (most banks offer these). However, this is not recommended long term and you may consider an LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney) for future financial matters.
Another option is to have a Post Office card; but this may be more difficult to manage as your illness progresses. Payments can be made into this account and will need to be regularly collected. You can nominate an additional person to have access to your Post Office card account, known as an ‘agent’, but they can only do this when you are still able to give permission. Once you lose capacity, this authority stops.
Making sure all your household bills are paid can be a challenge as your condition worsens. Getting as many of these payments set up by direct debit is probably the easiest way for you to manage your bills with as little work as possible. If you do want to manage it yourself, you could ask a loved one or a good friend to help you set up a list of payments and tick them off each month.
With all credit and debit cards needing a chip and pin number, this could present a real barrier to doing many normal things like shopping or going to the bank. There are chip and signature cards that allow you to insert the card and sign instead of having to remember a code.
A joint account with one of your children could also help you to manage your finances better, as they will have access to your accounts. Alternatively, a Lasting Power of Attorney for property and financial affairs would allow your attorney access to all of your bank accounts, and it can be used whilst you still have decisional capacity. When setting up a joint account, remember that you will be responsible for each other debts, so it is important you choose someone you really trust.
HSBC is a dementia-friendly bank that makes access easier, as well as providing ways to keep track of your spending. The staff are ‘Dementia Friends’, trained to help customers living with dementia. Contact your local HSBC for more information.
Your diagnosis doesn’t necessarily mean you are unable to make important decisions at the current time, but it is wise to make preparations for when your condition worsens.
You can make a Lasting Power of Attorney for health and welfare and property and financial affairs. This will come into effect once you lose capacity and means that your attorney can make decisions about your day-to-day care and longer-term health requirements.
A property and financial affairs LPA will handle:
A health and welfare LPA will have the power to manage:
Choose an attorney you can really trust to make the right decisions for you when you can’t. For more information on a Lasting Power of Attorney and how we can help you draft one, read our post How does a Lasting Power of Attorney protect me?
It is important that you do not delay making your benefit claim. You may be required to provide evidence of your diagnosis; this may be a letter from your doctor. Even if you do not have all the information at hand, it is better to get the ball rolling. Sometimes you may be able to gain access to backdated benefits (from the point you made the claim), so it is wise to at least make contact.
Romain Coleman can help you plan for your legal and financial future after your diagnosis. Remember this diagnosis, though upsetting, does not mean you are unable to plan for your future. Being well-informed and asking for help is the best way to ensure that you and your loved ones are well prepared for any future challenges.
Contact our experienced team on 0208 520 3322 or via our Contact Form.
This article was first published in 2016 and has been updated on 20/11/19.
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This post is not legal advice and should not replace professional advice tailored to your specific circumstances. It is intended to provide information of general interest about current legal issues.