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Losing Mental Capacity: A Guide to Managing Affairs and Estate Planning

This week has seen another well-known person reveal that they have been diagnosed with dementia. Alastair Stewart, former ITV news presenter, has detailed some of the difficulties he is now experiencing, and the frustrations that can come with coping with daily tasks.

Of course, we have no personal knowledge of Mr Stewart’s own circumstances, but we have worked with many families over the years to ensure that the right steps are taken now to help with some of the more practical and administrative matters that crop up where capacity starts to diminish.

Where you, or a member of your family, begins to lose capacity – whether by an illness such as dementia or Alzheimer’s Disease – there is a lot to consider. A diagnosis of dementia does not automatically mean that ability for one to manage their own affairs has gone, but as progressive disease it will likely mean that abilities fade over time.  For that reason, we would suggest that advice is sought to help you with the following:

  1. Review your Will. A will can be used to ensure that a loved one is provided for, but equally that assets do not pass to the person who is beginning to lose capacity. This can have the effect of preventing or reducing the imposition of care fees, for example.
  2. Create a Lasting Power of Attorney for Finances. These are extremely useful and allow you to choose who will manage your affairs when you cannot. In addition, it means that there will be no delay involved in being able to deal with your affairs. Think carefully about who your attorneys will be – it is better to have more than one. These can be used even when you retain capacity.
  3. Create a Lasting Power of Attorney for Health and Welfare. You can specify your wishes regarding your care, but you can appoint attorneys whom you trust to be able to make decisions when you cannot. This type of power of attorney can be used only when you lack capacity.
  4. Check Property Ownership. It is worth reviewing the deeds to property to make sure that there are no forgotten details that may cause issues. It is for this reason that it is important that there is more than one attorney.
  5. Check how savings and investments are owned. Sometimes, property and investments are in the name of only one spouse or partner. Reviewing this at an early stage is important.

If capacity has already been lost, then perhaps Lasting Powers of Attorney are no longer an option:

  1. Apply to the Court of Protection. The Court of Protection is able to make decisions for those who lack capacity and can appoint a ‘Deputy’ to take over the running of that person’s affairs in their best interests.

This area of the law is complex, and obtaining clear and practical advice is a must.

We wish Mr Stewart well in making his own arrangements to manage his affairs.

If you would like to discuss matters relating to yours, or those of a loved one, then contact us on 01633 867000 and we will be pleased to discuss how we can assist.

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