Dementia is a disease that will inevitably affect the social, emotional and financial life of the person with the disease and their family.
It is believed that 850,000 people in the UK currently have some form of dementia and that 25 million of us have a family member or friend with the condition. Dementia is a progressive illness where, if possible, it is essential to plan ahead.
How the law can help someone with Dementia
The questions that people with dementia, and their families, most frequently ask is:
- who will make decisions for them when they are no longer able to
- what will happen to their estate,
- who will pay their bills,
- look after their property — including their car and personal effects
- arrange for care either in their home or residential?
- One of the first steps should be to speak to a solicitor as soon as the first symptoms of dementia become apparent, as the law requires that the person’s mental capacity must be assessed to ensure that they understand the legal issues involved.
This is done by us in an informal way by talking with the client about themselves and their wishes.
Provided the client still has the mental ability to make decisions, we can then discuss with them, or together with family members, solutions to the legal problems that they will face.
The two legal processes most essential to the welfare of the client and their family is a Lasting Power of Attorney and a Will.
Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA)
An LPA allows people with dementia to give to a trusted person, or persons, instructions as to what happens to their property and care during their lifetime, and gives them the legal authority to make decisions on their behalf when they lose mental capacity.
The person with dementia is still able to continue making decisions about their lifestyle, finances and care but the LPA allows for the fact that the time will come when the person can no longer manage their life or give consent. Without an LPA, a lengthy and costly application would have to be made to the Court of Protection to appoint a deputy on their behalf.
Making a Will after being diagnosed with dementia
There is no difference with the legal formalities, but it is essential that the person making the Will has the necessary mental capacity and is not under any duress.
Everyone, young or old, ill or in good health should make a Will and review as and when necessary.
Home visits available
Dementia can lead to confusion in unfamiliar locations, nervousness when travelling and difficulty in communicating. If visiting our offices in Orpington may prove too stressful, we would be pleased to arrange a visit to your home or hospital if required.
Dementia cases give rise to contested wills
A rise in the number of dementia cases has resulted in a growing number of wills being challenged, as disinherited family members argue their relative was not of sound mind. The increase comes as people realise they can dispute someone’s wishes by saying they lacked capacity. Julia Burns, associate solicitor at Irwin Mitchell, said that most new will challenges involved claims that the person who had made the will was not capable of making decisions. But she also noted that many of these cases fail because families do not have enough evidence to show this, stating: “Clients think that because the person has had problems with their memory, they didn’t have capacity, and that’s not the case at all. Actually, the barrier for challenging a will is really high.” The Telegraph notes that the vast majority of all will challenges either fail or are settled out of court.