There is a Catch-22 of sorts that is applicable to elder law issues, and it is something that should be addressed although it is a rather tricky and sensitive subject. A limited percentage of people are willing to confront this reality head-on, but memory loss which leads to the inability to make sound decisions is something that must be prepared for when you look at the statistical probabilities.
It is easy to make the statement that “you must make plans for possible incapacity due to dementia,” but here is the rub: when you begin to suffer from reduced cognitive capabilities you are likely to be be less willing and able to do so.
The fact is that some 13% of people who are at least 65 years of age are suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. This figure expands to 40% once you reach the age of 85. So if you are “playing your cards close to the vest” with your family regarding your finances and your estate plan without considering the very real possibility of a loss of cognitive abilities you may be making a mistake.
Estate planning would seem to be a matter of recording your wishes when you are of sound mind and leaving it at that. But a number of contingencies can come into play when you consider the possibility of Alzheimer’s induced dementia or decreased cognitive abilities due to some other health challenge. Recognizing this reality is something that can be difficult to do, but it is the responsible course of action all the same.
You can’t examine this issue while tiptoeing around it. The wise course of action is to engage in open and honest conversations with your family members about the possibility of reduced cognitive abilities at some point. You may also want to involve an elder law attorney who can help you work through the possible scenarios and explain the appropriate legal groundwork that can be laid ensure that your wishes are carried out should dementia strike at some point in time.
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