When people in the Colorado Springs, Colorado area receive an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, they naturally have a lot of questions about the future. What does this mean for me and my family? Is there anything I can do to protect myself and ensure that my wishes will be honored in the years to come?
Alzheimer’s disease is a complicated condition, and one that gives rise to a number of potential legal issues. In general, a diagnosis for Alzheimer’s disease will probably not prevent you from creating an estate plan. However, you will need to be able to act quickly and decisively if you receive such a diagnosis and do not have an estate plan in place. Here are some commonly asked questions that people who have been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s typically have.
Question 1. If I have Alzheimer’s, can I create a power of attorney?
Probably, though you’ll need to speak to your attorney and your physician. Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive, degenerative medical condition that, eventually, causes those who have it to lose their cognitive capacities. There is also no treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s disease, so once you have been diagnosed with it, you can be relatively certain that your mental abilities will get worse over time.
When you create estate planning documents such as a power of attorney, you must have a minimum level of mental capacity. You have to be able to make knowing choices, understand what those choices will mean for you and your property, and be able to make decisions free from coercion or outside influence.
When it comes to Alzheimer’s and making powers of attorney, the question depends on how capable you currently are. If you are in the early stages of the disease there is likely little question that you are capable of making a power of attorney. However, the more time passes and the more your cognitive abilities decrease, the less likely it will be that you will be able to create any kind of estate planning tool.
Question 2. One of my parents has just been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Can I be appointed power of attorney or make decisions on my parent’s behalf?
The answer to this question also depends upon the individual circumstances of your situation. When a person chooses to create a power of attorney, that person can choose whomever he or she likes to serve as the agent. If your parent is still capable of making choices, he or she can choose you as the agent. However, your parent has no obligation to choose you, and has no duty to create any estate planning document, including a power of attorney.
Also, if the disease has advanced too far, your parent won’t be able to make a power of attorney, and you’ll have to ask a court to appoint a guardian.