We have all read tragic stories of the elderly being taken advantage of – often because they have lost some of their ability to make smart decisions due to illness or mental decline. The reality is as some people age, their mental acuity declines. There is oftentimes no way to prepare for it, and family and loved ones are caught unprepared. According to recent statistics,
• 20 – 25% of Americans 65 and older have mild cognitive impairment
• 10% have dementia
• 1 in 9 people age 65 and older (11.3%) has Alzheimer’s dementia
If you see early signs that your spouse or loved one is declining mentally due to an illness or aging, you need to take steps to ensure you are protected and that your spouse does not unintentionally hurt your future. Often a Power of Attorney is a simpler, less expensive and proactive alternative to putting a guardianship in place in the future.
Giving someone, even someone you love and trust, a Power of Attorney to act on your behalf can be frightening as someone ages and sees a loss of control – but it is far less drastic than a guardianship, which takes away many of the disabled individual’s rights to act independently. A Power of Attorney is also less expensive and easier to manage.
1. Act Now
While your spouse is in good health, together you should make a plan to legally protect yourselves. If you wait until your spouse continues to decline, his mental acuity to enact a legal document could be legally challenged due to dementia. You can’t make a legally valid will, administer a power of attorney, or execute any other legal document unless you are “of sound mind.”
2. Medical Decisions
What if your spouse becomes ill and requires medical treatment – are they able to make their own healthcare decision. A Healthcare Power of Attorney is a durable power of attorney, a legal device that allows one person to indefinitely make decisions on behalf of another.
3. Financial Decisions
Who’s going to pay the bills and take care of your personal finances if your spouse is mentally unable to? If you are joint account holders, your spouse can also write checks, sell valuables and make financial donations. A durable power of attorney gives you the authority to act on your spouse’s behalf, and protect both of you financially.
If you have questions about incapacity planning and how and when to create a power of attorney to protect your future, an experienced Oak Brook power of attorney lawyer can explain your options and the ramifications of each type of POA, and advise you of the right powers to fit your needs. For more information about how a power of attorney could protect your situation, contact the Estate & Probate Legal Group today at 630-864-5835.