Presently, there are over 850,000 people living with dementia in the UK with it affecting more people than heart disease. In recognition of ‘World Alzheimer’s Month’ during September, and Alzheimer’s accounting for 60% of dementia cases; this blog outlines the things that need to be considered for those newly diagnosed.
Whilst we understand it’s incredibly hard to come to terms with a diagnosis of dementia, a plan for the future really can’t be put off. There are certain measures that need to be taken that will greatly assist, in readiness for the future; this is known as ‘Advance Care Planning.’
Advance decisions and advance statements can be put in place, enabling those diagnosed to make decisions about future treatments, and preferences about care choices whilst they are still able to do so. Please note that the rulings on advance decisions and advance statements differ in Northern Ireland and Scotland to England and Wales. However, Dunham McCarthy can appraise you, and advise you about these.
Other things that need to be considered are finances. For those just diagnosed, it’s really a time to start putting finances in order and, if one has not been done already – to put a Will in place – whilst the mental capacity to do so still exists.
With a Will, there are many decisions to make ranging from what happens to your estate, and who is to receive what – as well as investigating the many ways of reducing the amount of Inheritance Tax (IHT) payable on your estate, so that family and loved ones don’t suffer from any unnecessary IHT burden. A Will also enables the individual to decide upon their choice of funeral / body disposal arrangements, and to make decisions about who will be the Executors of the Will (the people responsible for ensuring that the terms of the Will are carried out exactly as instructed). Please note that if an existing Will is already in place and it is over 5 years old, it will almost certainly need updating.
The most important document anybody diagnosed with any neurological disorder should do is complete a Lasting Power of Attorney.
An LPA is a legal tool that gives other adults the legal authority to make certain decisions for someone – if they become unable to make the decisions themselves. Generally speaking, there are two LPA’s to be made; one for ‘Health & Welfare’ and one for ‘Property & Financial Affairs.’ One or more individuals can be chosen for both LPA’s.
A ’Health & Welfare’ LPA – enables decisions to be made regarding medical care and future care needs such as moving to a care home, and life sustaining treatment.
A ‘Property & Financial Affairs’ LPA – allows decisions to be made regarding bank accounts, paying bills, collecting benefits and pension’s and buying and selling property.
The LPA’s can be used once the individual lacks the capacity to make such decisions.
Unfortunately, there will come a point where the individual can no longer make decisions for themselves; this is known as ‘lacking mental capacity.’ When this time arises, it is too late to apply for LPA (Lasting Power of Attorney). In such circumstances, your loved ones would have to apply to become your “Deputy” through the Court of Protection. Deputyship can be a time consuming and costly court process; often entering into thousands of pounds. Also, whilst a deputyship application is pending, the court will freeze all of your accounts and assets (including joint assets). In many cases, these assets can be frozen for several months.
In order to avoid the complications, costs and time involved with deputyship, clients are advised to make their Lasting Powers of Attorney whilst they still have their mental capacity. Lasting Powers of Attorney are legal documents in which you, the “Donor” appoint “Attorneys” (often friends and/or family members) to make decisions on your behalf if you are ill or lose capacity. As you are giving the authority to your attorneys to act, the courts do not need to be involved.