When a person close to you is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a host of issues have to be dealt with immediately and in the
future. One area that needs to be looked at closely involves the
legal issues that arise.
To say the field of law is complex is a minor understatement.
That being said, there is one concept that is runs through much of
law that is fairly easy to grasp. The concept is know as "capacity."
It refers to a person's ability to make a decision. For instance, a
person under the age of majority is automatically considered to be
incapable of forming a contract in most states. The reason is they
are considered to have an insufficient capacity to determine whether
entering a contract is a good move. This is why 13 year old cannot
I am discussing the concept of capacity because it is central to
any diagnosis of Alzheimer's disease. All to often, people will drag
their feet on making legal decisions and executing legal documents
because Alzheimer's tends to progress slowly. This is a mistake
because Alzheimer's is a disease that attacks the brain and any such
disease automatically raises the issue of whether a person has
sufficient mental capacity to enter legal agreements.
For instance, a court might find a person diagnosed with
Alzheimer's disease who waited five years to form a durable power of
attorney did not have the capacity to do so. The court would then
terminate the power of attorney and assign a court guardian to make
the decisions. Do you really want that to happen?
When a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease, a lawyer
should be retained immediately. The legal documents that should be
discussed with that attorney include a durable power of attorney for
financial decisions, a durable power of attorney for health
decisions, the creation or modification of a trust, the creation or
modification of a will and the creation of a living will. Each of
these legal documents is a complex subject, but all are useless if
the person diagnosed is rendered incapable of forming them.
In short, you need to act quickly or you might end up with a
judge making decisions for you and your family. I can't think of any
family that would want that to occur.
About the Author:
Alex Jensen is with
a free senior housing placement service in Southern California for
Webpage by Paul Susic MA Licensed
Psychologist Ph.D. Candidate
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