There have been several high profile cases of people developing dementia, the most notable being Terry Pratchett which has helped raise awareness of the disease. It’s now recognised as something that can strike almost at any time after middle age. It’s therefore important that everyone is armed with the right information should they find themselves or a family member affected. As dementia is a progressive disease it does mean that people have a chance in the early stages of the disease to take steps and plan for the time when perhaps their mental capacity means they need assistance with their day to day affairs.

People who lack mental capacity

It’s understandable that people who notice the symptoms of dementia, including memory loss, mood changes and problems with communicating can put off seeing a GP for a diagnosis but the sooner you can put plans in place to deal with the effects, the easier both you and your family will find it to deal with the implications of the disease. It is important to ensure safeguards are in place for you or your family member if they are not able to make certain decisions on their own, the Mental Capacity Act 2005 incorporate these to ensure decisions made for people who lack mental capacity are in their best interests.

Power of Attorney: planning for the future

It is advisable for all adults to consider making a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA), this comes in two parts: one part covers property and finance, and the other personal welfare. A Lasting Power of Attorney gives you the control to appoint people you trust to act on your behalf if you become incapable of managing your own affairs, this could be a close relative, friend or professional adviser. A Lasting Power of Attorney can only be made while you have capacity. It’s worth noting that you can appoint different people to deal with the separate elements of the Lasting Power of Attorney depending on their skill set, so you could decide to have one person to cover property and finance issues, and another for personal welfare.

The importance of making a will before you lose capacity

Another very important element to ensure you have sorted is to make a will, or check your current will reflects your situation so your estate will be left to those you wish to receive it, this can also help to reduce inheritance tax.

If you don’t have a will, the intestacy rules apply which means your estate will be divided between your relatives in order of priority (usually primarily spouse and children, but not grandchildren), this may not reflect the priority you would like your estate to be divided.

To help you, we have created a detailed guide to dealing with the legal issues of dementia which covers all the points you need to consider for your future. It can be tempting to put off thinking about a future where you might lack mental capacity, however, we are all living much longer which means that more and more of us will likely suffer from dementia. At present, the only way of reducing the likely burden on those whose task it will be to care for us is to write a will and create a Lasting Power of Attorney while we have capacity. This will enable you to retain a degree of control over our future as well as reducing the administrative and emotional strain on our families and friends. 

Content has been produced by Wright Hassall. 

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