Practical steps to take if you have just been diagnosed with (or have just started experiencing symptoms of) Dementia.
If you have just been diagnosed with dementia or are experiencing symptoms of dementia, you will no doubt have a lot of emotions and information to process. As well as speaking to your doctor and starting to access the support services available to those living with dementia, consider the following practical steps to put your financial and legal affairs in order.
Taking these steps early on help make things easier for you and your loved ones as you adapt to living with the dementia as the condition progresses. Here are some suggestions of what you might like to do:
- If you don’t already have one, consider getting a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) for Property and Financial Affairs drawn up:
This document, once registered, authorises your attorney(s) (the people you have chosen in the LPA) to look after your property and finances, if you are unable to do so in the future due to reduced mental capacity. You may also choose to allow your attorney(s) to act on your behalf whilst you have capacity, which can be helpful. It is extremely important to choose the right attorneys; they need to be trustworthy people with the right skills and qualities to be able to look after your financial affairs.
- You may already have an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) which is the older style of the Property and Financial Affairs LPA:
LPAs were introduced in 2007 and prior to this, a person could make an EPA. If you have an EPA it is worth reviewing it to see if you are still happy with the details, such as who you have named as attorney(s) to see whether they are still suitable.
It is also worth bearing in mind that the EPA will need to be registered by your attorneys with the Office of the Public Guardian, once they consider that you have lost/are losing mental capacity, so make them aware of this.
- Consider getting a Health and Welfare LPA drawn up:
As the name suggests, this allows your attorney(s) to make decisions about your health and welfare on your behalf if you are unable to do so. This type of LPA can only be used when you lack mental capacity to make these types of decision for yourself. Again, it is important to have trusted attorneys: these could be different people or the same people as in your Property & Finance LPA or EPA. When making a Health and Welfare LPA, you decide whether to allow your attorney(s) to make life sustaining treatment decisions.
If you previously made an ‘advanced decision’ (sometimes known as a living will), you may wish to review this and perhaps prepare a Health & Welfare LPA instead as this is more comprehensive.
For more information on LPAs, please click here.
- Review your Will:
Make sure your Will is up to date and the contents are in accordance with your wishes. To ensure it is a valid document and to help protect the Will against any future dispute, it is likely that your lawyer will recommend that you also discuss your Will with a medical professional.
- Look at your finances generally:
If you have not done so already, set up as many household bills and other regular payments on direct debit and make sure all your important documents and details of your assets and liabilities are together in a safe place and that someone you trust, such as your attorney(s), knows where to find them if required. Doing so will mean that should you need help you with your finances your family will not have to trawl through piles of paperwork to find relevant and up to date information.
- Check your benefits:
As a final point on checking your affairs, look at whether you are receiving all the benefits you are eligible for and what you may be able to receive in the future; for example, you may be eligible for attendance allowance or carers allowance. In some areas you can also receive a council tax discount and a free bus pass if you are living with dementia.
It is important to note that in order to create new legal documents such as LPAs and Wills, certain legal capacity tests must be met and a person living with dementia may or may not be able to satisfy these requirements. Dementia is a progressive illness and therefore the above steps should be considered as soon as possible.
Having taken the time to increase their understanding of dementia by becoming ‘dementia friends’, our lawyers here at Whitehead Monckton understand that each individual has their own dementia journey and take the time, often in conjunction with a doctor, to consider each individual’s capacity and support those living with dementia with their legal affairs. If the legal capacity tests cannot be met, we can support loved ones through the process of a deputyship application or a statutory will application, if appropriate.
Tax and Estate Planning Solicitor and Dementia Friends Champions Bekka Fuszard was on BBC Radio kent with a representative from the Alzheimer's Society on Graham Jones' Show 'On the Air with.....' on Wednesday the 3rd of October 2018 and you can listen to it now on BBC I Player Radio.