There are many things to deal with when someone is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, but what’s important to remember is that they still have a voice and can still make decisions about what they want and how they wish matters to be arranged.
Just because you have a diagnosis does not mean that you cannot make a Will or a Power of Attorney. As a solicitor I would encourage everyone to have both documents, but especially those who want to choose who will be their voice if the time comes and they are unable to make their own feelings known.
The importance of a Will
Everyone knows that they should make a Will to ensure that their property and financial affairs go to who they want. If you live with someone to whom you are not married or in a civil partnership, they do not inherit your estate. If you don’t have a Will then the law sets down who inherits, which may not be who you want. There are many myths as to who gets what and there is no substitute for speaking to someone who can advise you on your specific situation.
You may be part of a blended family where you want to protect your spouse but still ensure that your children inherit at the end of the day. If you have children with addiction issues or are just not great with money you may wish to look after them but not leave your worldly goods to them. Wills can cover most eventualities and can ensure that you choose what happens.
A mental capacity assessment
A solicitor advising you will probably suggest that you have a mental capacity assessment. This is nothing to worry about. It’s the solicitor’s job to ensure that your wishes are followed and that no-one can suggest that you didn’t understand what you are doing.
If people feel that they should have benefited from your estate but didn’t, they might claim that the diagnosis of Alzheimer’s meant you did not know what you were doing. The solicitor will be asking the mental capacity assessor for a report that showed that you clearly did so that your Will is much less likely to be challenged.
Even if you have a Will it would be wise to have the contents reviewed as things can change with families and there have been changes to the law too.
A Will should be able to be signed within a month of giving instructions.
Lasting Powers of Attorney
The other document to look at is Lasting Powers of Attorney (LPA), this can either be for property and financial affairs or health and welfare or preferably both. In a LPA you appoint someone to make decisions for you if you cannot. This would allow them to pay your bills, have access to your accounts and even sell your house if necessary on the financial side. On the health and welfare the main issues are deciding where you live or end of life treatment.
The law is very clear that as long as you’re able to make your own decisions, you are the only person who is able to do so. Just because you create a LPA does not mean your attorneys take over. What it does mean is that people of your choosing are able to look after you when you cannot do so yourself.
When creating a power of attorney a solicitor will ensure that you decide who you want to act and when you want them to act and also advise you on putting down information on how you want them to act. You will sign the document first, once you are happy with it, then someone called a Certificate Provider will sign to say you knew what you were signing and no one was pressurising you to do so.
This again is a great safeguard to ensure that no one can argue that you did not know what you were doing because you had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. Your attorneys also then need to sign to say they will act in your best interests if they ever have to make decisions for you. It can take a couple of months from giving instructions to obtaining all the necessary signatures.
In order to use a LPA it must be registered at the Office of the Public Guardian and which can take up to 20 weeks. This means that it is sensible to start looking at creating these documents as soon as possible.
Before you look to create a LPA to deal with your finances it is an idea to see if you ever created an Enduring Power of Attorney (before 1 October 2007) as that may well still cover your wishes and is still valid.
Whatever you do it is important that you are still given a voice and you decide what happens next to you.
How Moore Barlow can help you
If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s and would like to discuss the making of a Will or Lasting Power of Attorney, please contact our expert team today.