Skip to main content

Legal Considerations

Advance Directive, Powers of Attorney, and Last Will and Testament

The term “estate planning” refers to the preparation and execution of a set of documents, typically including a Last Will and Testament, financial power of attorney, and advance medical directive.  These documents allow you to make your wishes regarding asset management, health care decisions, and the disposition of your estate known, and binding, on your friends and relatives.

Estate planning is not a right reserved for the wealthy or the dying.  Nearly everyone can benefit from having these documents in place to protect their wishes.  Without the appropriate documents, state law will dictate how your assets will be managed during your lifetime, possibly requiring a guardianship proceeding before the court; the extent to which life-sustaining treatment will be provided; and how your estate will be distributed, the outcome of which is often drastically different from what you may have wanted.

While “competency” is a statutory prerequisite to valid documents, a diagnosis of dementia does not automatically preclude someone from engaging in estate planning.  In fact, if a loved one has been recently diagnosed, the time to implement these documents is now!  Laws and forms vary from state to state.  To ensure your efforts are not in vain, your best bet is to consult with a qualified elder law or estate planning attorney in your area.