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Mental Decline and Estate Planning

Mental Decline and Estate Planning

A person’s peak thinking abilities occur around the age of 30, and from that time on, your ability to think, process information and make decisions decline, often very slowly as you age. No one likes to think about this, but by understanding what is occurring and planning for it now, you may be better able to make sure your wishes, beliefs and goals are respected throughout your lifetime.

At The Siegel Law Group, our Estate Planning Attorneys routinely work closely with people who are faced with a wide range of challenges due to mental decline complications as they get older. That’s why it’s important for individuals to take steps now to protect their future.

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The Importance of Early Planning For Mental Decline

Consider that changes in cognitive thinking are not just about the onset of a condition like Alzheimer’s or dementia, but rather just a slowing in your ability to make decisions. The sharpness of your thinking and your ability to communicate with others gradually slows over your lifetime as brain cells die off. This happens to most people, not just those who develop cognitive decline at a much more rapid rate due to the development of a health condition.

In all situations, recognizing that your brain is at its healthiest the younger you are, it is time to consider the methods available to help you to plan for bigger concerns down the road.

Why Early Action Matters

Though this gradual rate of mental decline is expected, it is also essential to consider what could happen rather suddenly. For example, early-onset dementia occurs in 5 – 6% of people who are under the age of 65. The problem is that you may not notice the signs, and your family may not have any indication of what is happening until your symptoms worsen significantly.

A study by the Texas Tech Financial Literacy Assessment Project revealed a surprising trend: our financial decision-making skills reach their peak in our early 50s.  Unfortunately, the research also shows a decline of roughly 2% annually after the age of 60. This decline in cognitive abilities can put your finances at greater risk. 

Mental decline can render you legally incompetent. Once this occurs, it becomes impossible for you to make changes to your Estate Plan that aren’t susceptible to challenge. If you begin to experience the early symptoms of mental decline, for example, someone could argue that you are not mentally competent to make decisions about your future, putting your estate at risk if you have not already finalized your Estate Plan. If you maintain that Plan now and update it over time, there is less risk challenges to your Estate Plan in the future.

Benefits of Proactive Planning

Being proactive with Estate Planning helps to empower you, giving you the ability to make decisions the way you desire now, protecting your future even when you may find it impossible to do so later.

  • Make decisions that fit your life now:
    Proactive planning allows you to make decisions that fit your goals now, while no one can question your ability to make those decisions.
  • Put in place a plan to minimize changes later:
    By having an Estate Plan in place, you can also put safeguards into it to prevent others from challenging those decisions.
  • You can make changes over time:
    If you establish your wishes now, but change those decisions in two months or 20 years, you can make updates to your Estate Plan to reflect it.

In short, there is no reason not to protect yourself now from what could happen to you in the future. With the help of an Estate Planning Lawyer, you minimize many of the risks that could otherwise challenge you.

Estate Planning Tools To Manage Mental Decline

The question many people have is, How? What do you need to do to put such a plan in place? Working with a South Florida Estate Planning Attorney gives you access to numerous such tools; here are some key steps to secure your future against mental decline:

  • Power of Attorney:
    Establishing a
    Power of Attorney provides you with a clear idea of who can make decisions for you moving forward. You name a person who can make financial and legal decisions for you and manage all of your financial and legal affairs if, for any reason, you become incapacitated and unable to make those decisions yourself.
  • Living Trusts:
    A
    Living Trust is a legal document that can help minimize the risk of probate and help you to ensure your assets are passed to beneficiaries with ease.
  • Long-Term Care Planning:
    Discuss a
    plan for long-term care needs, especially if you face the possibility of requiring ongoing care due to conditions like Alzheimer’s or dementia. This conversation with your family should address living arrangements and care options for the future.

The goal in all situations is to make decisions now, before you experience mental decline, to minimize the risk of someone else making decisions for you later.

Additional Considerations

Mental decline is never a topic you look forward to discussing, but it can be a critical conversation to have when you have specific wishes or goals for your property or even your own well-being.

Choosing the Right People

The first and most important step is always to choose people you trust as your representatives.

  • These are individuals who should understand what your wishes are.
  • They should be someone who will make decisions based on those wishes, not their own beliefs or goals.
  • Choose a person who is competent enough to handle big tasks like Power of Attorney and Trustee of your Estate.

These are not decisions to make easily or quickly. Think about what is most important to you and who you trust to provide for all of your needs.

Regular Review

Once you make those decisions, realize you need to come back and reevaluate them from time to time. This will prove to be critical as your life changes. While there is often a focus on seniors putting these decisions in place, everyone should have an Estate Plan. That means even in your 30s and 40s, you need one. Throughout your lifetime, come back to these decisions to make updates as necessary to ensure they continue to meet your goals as your life changes.

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Call THE South Florida Estate Planning Attorneys – The Siegel Law Group

The future may be uncertain, but you can take charge by creating an Estate Plan and being prepared in case you experience mental decline. 

Now is the best time to take action and make big decisions. Let us help you to achieve your goals. Call our office at 561-576-6206 to schedule a complimentary consultation, or submit our online contact form to schedule a consultation today. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.

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