September is Alzheimer's month. To mark the occasion, and help raise awareness of the issues faced by dementia suffers and their families, Ian Fisher Head of Wills & Probate with Ware & Kay in York, Wetherby & Malton , provides an overview of the practical legal steps you can take to help protect yourself and your loved ones.
'Alzheimer's is the most common form of dementia and affects millions of people around the world. Receiving a diagnosis can be devastating and immediate thoughts will inevitably turn to treatment and healthcare support. However, it is also important to think about the legal and financial implications of a disease that will erode your ability to make decisions for yourself. Dealing with these issues at an early stage, while you still have the mental capacity to do so, is crucial and can go a long way to giving you much needed peace of mind,' says Ian Fisher.
To ensure that, if you become unable to make decisions for yourself, decisions made by others on your behalf accord (as far as possible) with your wishes, you should consider making a lasting power of attorney, a will and a letter of wishes. You need to do this at the earliest opportunity and before your illness renders you incapable of making fully-informed decisions for yourself.
Power of attorney
A power of attorney lets you appoint people you know and trust to make decisions on your behalf and enables you to give guidance to those people on how decisions affecting you should be made. There are two types of power of attorney:
Ian Fisher advises making both to ensure all decisions that may need to be made on your behalf are covered.
Wills and letters of wishes
Making a will enables you to decide how your money and property should be dealt with when you die. It also provides an opportunity for you and your solicitor to consider your needs while you are still alive and to explore the options for funding those needs while still enabling you to pass on an inheritance to your loved ones. Investigations can be made to determine whether you would qualify for help with the cost of any care you may need and to help you demonstrate that you meet the qualifying criteria.
If the value of your assets is likely to exceed the level at which inheritance tax becomes payable then advice can also be given on the steps you can lawfully take to reduce your potential liability and therefore the amount of tax that must be paid.
Where any provision of your will may be controversial or come as a surprise to your relatives, and therefore lead them to question whether you knew what you were doing at the time your will was made, a letter of wishes can be used to rationalize your decision and explain why you have chosen to act as you have. This can help reduce the potential for conflict between family members after your death.
Planning ahead is the key to making life for you and your loved ones as easy as possible following the diagnosis of Alzheimer's or any other form of dementia.
For a confidential discussion about any of the issues raised in this article, and for help making a will or a lasting power of attorney, please contact Ware & Kay on 01904 716000 or email email@example.com