Making a Will when diagnosed with dementia

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When you have been diagnosed with dementia or Alzheimer’s, you are advised to organise your legal and financial affairs when you can still understand and make decisions.

Following a shocking diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s and knowing that your memory and thinking will deteriorate over time, medical professionals (including the NHS) usually advise patients to:

  • Get support
  • Make a will
  • Put your papers in order
  • Claim benefits
  • Set up Lasting power of attorney to manage your affairs
  • Plan for advance care

Making a Will ranks high because planning ahead means you are in control and you know that you can protect your loved ones and causes that are dear to your heart. Time is also of the essence here as you must create a Will when you can still make decisions and understand the effect of the document you are creating.

Testamentary capacity

Testamentary capacity is a legal term that describes the capacity and understanding required by the testator to make a Will. Meaning the testator must:

  • Understand the nature and effect of making a Will
  • The extent of their estate, now and in the future
  • Who might expect to benefit from the Will
  • The testator must show that they do not have a mental illness that influences them to make decisions in the Will that they would not otherwise have made

When you have dementia, Alzheimer’s or another condition that might affect your decision-making, our solicitors will assist you to get medical evidence to state that you are still able to make decisions when you are creating a legally-binding Will. The main reasons are to avoid future complications and prevent someone from contesting the Will later.

Lasting power of attorney

Apart from writing a Will, another legal step that can help you plan for the future is lasting power of attorney.

As explained in the article What is lasting power of attorney? The complete guide to lasting power of attorney, this is a legal document that allows you (the donor) to appoint one or more people (the attorneys) to help you make decisions on your behalf in the event that you cannot make your own decisions.

A surprisingly large number of people do not realise that your spouse or your children do not automatically assume the legal power to manage your affairs without you naming them as your attorneys in the legal document. Without lasting power of attorney, no one can make decisions for you unless they apply to the Court of Protection to become a deputy and be granted the same powers as an attorney – this is a time-consuming and expensive process and should be avoided if it is possible.

Lasting power of attorney has two categories:

  • Property and financial affairs – this allows your attorney to collect your pension, paying bills, selling your homes, among other property and financial tasks.
  • Health and welfare – this allows your attorney to make decisions about your daily care (washing, dressing, eating) and medical care (when to move into a care home etc).

Call one of our solicitors today on 0208 520 4555 if you would like to know more about lasting power of attorney.

Advance care planning

Known as Living Will or Advance Directive, this is a document that puts you in control (you can refuse or accept in advance) any specific medical treatment or procedure should you become unable to decide for yourself.

Advance care is different from lasting power of attorney because it is you who is making the decision in advance (instead of your appointed attorney). However, if you have made an advance care and then sometime later you make a Health and Welfare lasting power of attorney, then whichever is created later will take priority.

Other planning

Organising all the important papers, from mortgage to insurance policies, into a single place that can be easily found is important, not to mention it will save you time and effort in the long run. Also, let your attorney know where the papers are kept.

Taking care of your health is paramount. Have a regular routine, get support, eat a healthy diet, exercise, stay active socially, are all the things that can help you cope with memory loss and problems with thinking.

Get in touch

If you would like to find out more about the importance of making a Will following a diagnosis of dementia or to discuss any other legal steps such as lasting power of attorney and advance care, you can contact our experienced team on 0208 520 4555 or via our Contact Form and we will be in touch soon.

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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.

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