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The impact of a parent's dementia on estate planning

New York residents with aging parents may wish to know some of the potential difficulties that can accompany a parent's dementia. A dementia diagnosis may seriously affect numerous estate planning and long-term care issues.

When a person has an elderly parent who is suffering from dementia or memory loss, this can present difficult care planning and other legal issues. Experts suggest that a child whose parent begins to show signs of dementia seek to get a durable power of attorney created while the parent is still mentally competent. This will allow the child or another trusted individual to make important financial, legal and health care decisions on behalf of the parent. In cases where the parent has already been judged to be mentally incompetent, a new power of attorney may not be deemed valid by a court. Generally, however, those who are just beginning to show signs are still considered competent.

Waiting until after the parent has been deemed incompetent can also present serious issues with regard to wills and estate planning. When people are not able to understand the extent of their property, the beneficiaries of their estate and the fact that they are creating a will, they may lack the capacity to make a valid will. If a valid will does not already exist at that point, the state law of intestacy will govern the distribution of the estate when the parent passes away.

In addition to these estate planning issues, there may be other care planning difficulties when dementia begins. An attorney with experience in this area may be able to assist with these issues, including working with family members to coordinate the appropriate form of nursing care.

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