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Oct 25, 2017

Estate Planning + Dementia

People are living longer than ever before these days. The doctors are helping to extend life for many of us, but they cannot keep us free from all illnesses.

Estate planning and extended ageing is an important discussion that many families need to have. It’s not a pleasant topic, but it should not be ignored. And in fact a discussion among family members about getting older and planning properly can be a positive affirmation of a close family.

Forty seven million people worldwide suffer from dementia. And there are 10 million new cases every year. Helping our clients prepare for a family member suffering from dementia is an issue we care a lot about. If the estate planning is not set up to deal with a long term illness such as dementia, families can suffer tremendously both financially and emotionally.

Here are 5 estate planning tips for families dealing with dementia:

  1. Make sure your name, birthday and social security number are all the same on all your documents, records and papers. Different names or birth dates can lead to delays and costs sorting it all out. The last thing a grieving spouse needs to deal with.
  2. Probate may not seem like such a big deal when you think of your grandparents generation and how planning was handled many years ago. But today is different. Take real estate as an example. If you own property in two different states and you don’t have proper planning in place, then you could be subjected to probate in two different states. Not good! You may have to spend thousands to get property released from probate in multiple states and deal with several court systems.
  3. Make sure all legal documents are updated, like your power of attorney. Imagine if you own a retirement plan that requires the signature of your spouse to take distributions. Your spouse has dementia and cannot sign and your power of attorney is outdated – or you don’t have one. Now you have to battle the courts to get the needed money out of your retirement plan.
  4. Make sure to be clear on how you want ALL of your assets to be dealt with. Not just the big assets like your home or vacation property. Families can fall apart over what seems like unimportant personal items. Maybe you have jewelry that your children feel some attachment to. And several of your kids end up in a bitter disagreement over a favored bracelet. Or maybe you own a treasure trove of work tools that hold value for your kids.
  5. Make sure your healthcare directives document is in place and then be sure to provide a copy to all of your doctors. This is just a good idea to avoid any potential conflict down the road.

One last thing and probably the most important. When parents are healthy and the seas are calm, it can be a rewarding experience to sit down with the kids and have a thoughtful discussion about estate planning. Talk to your kids about your plans and get their input. Give your kids a copy of your planning documents and make them a part of the process.

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