Dementia can feel like an overwhelming diagnosis, both for the person receiving it and their loved ones. As difficult decisions lie ahead, having the proper legal documents in place is crucial.
A power of attorney allows someone to make healthcare and financial choices if a person becomes unable to do so themselves. But what if that power of attorney needs to change after a dementia diagnosis?
While challenging, changing power of attorney for a loved one with dementia is possible with some preparation and guidance. This article will walk through the step-by-step process, so you can move forward with confidence.
When to Designate Power of Attorney Diagnosed with Dementia
The ideal time to assign a POA is right after a dementia diagnosis, while the person still has full capacity. In the early stages, individuals can thoughtfully choose an agent and understand the POA document.
As dementia progresses, the process becomes more difficult. In the mid-to-late stages, people often lack the capacity to understand or sign legal forms. At this point, families may need to go to court for conservatorship or guardianship.
Working with an elder law attorney can help navigate timing. They’ll advise if a person still has sufficient capacity to sign a POA.
Selecting an Agent with Power of Attorney
Choosing an agent is an important decision requiring careful thought. Consider factors like:
- Trustworthiness – The agent must act responsibly and in the person’s best interest. Look for someone financially responsible without money issues of their own.
- Proximity – It helps if the agent lives nearby to monitor healthcare and finances. Out-of-state agents can work but make tasks harder.
- Willingness – Confirm the person accepts the significant responsibility of POA. Declining is perfectly acceptable.
- Skills – Some people are better with healthcare decisions, while others excel at finances. Divide POA between multiple agents if needed.
Discuss choices as a family. An elder law attorney can advise about naming co-agents or successors if the initial POA cannot serve.
Obtaining POA with Early-Stage Dementia
In early dementia, individuals often retain enough capacity to sign a POA. This involves:
- Meeting with an attorney to discuss wishes and create documents.
- Reviewing the POA with the chosen agent to ensure understanding.
- Signing the POA in the attorney’s presence.
Early planning prevents rushing if dementia symptoms rapidly accelerate. Most attorneys will assess capacity before reviewing a POA. Refusing to sign or not understanding the document may indicate a person no longer has the capacity for POA.
Obtaining POA with Mid- to Late-Stage Dementia
Once dementia impacts decision-making abilities, obtaining POA becomes difficult. At this point, families must go to court for conservatorship or guardianship.
This involves filing a petition explaining why the person needs a guardian or conservator. The court will appoint an investigator to evaluate the individual and make a recommendation. There will also be a court hearing for a judge to decide whether to grant the petition.
The process takes several months and has costs like court fees, attorney rates, and investigator charges. It also removes decision-making from the individual. Still, it’s necessary to act on their behalf legally.
Revoking or Changing POA with Dementia
Situations where POA may need to change include:
- The named agent passes away or becomes incapacitated.
- The agent makes poor decisions or misuses authority.
- Divorce or family conflict leads to disagreement about the agent.
If dementia is mild, the person may still have the capacity to revoke the POA and sign a new document naming a different agent. This gets harder as dementia advances.
In late-stage dementia, the court must approve changing the POA and appoint a new guardian or conservator. The family should consult an estate planning attorney if agent issues arise.
Get Expert Guidance on Power of Attorney for Dementia
When a loved one faces a dementia diagnosis, making legal preparations becomes urgent before mental capacity declines. At Safe Harbor Estate Law, their dementia incapacity planning lawyers guide Minnesota families through establishing power of attorney.
Their lawyers carefully discuss health conditions, financial vulnerabilities, household duties, and healthcare wishes when creating POA documentation. They aim to capture wishes and appoint an agent to make decisions when patients cannot. With future care mapped out, families gain peace of mind despite the difficulties ahead.
If your family just received a dementia diagnosis, immediately contact Safe Harbor Estate Law to begin planning. Visit their website at https://safeharborestatelaw.com/ today.