Over the past decades and years, research on dementia and mental capacity has continued to grow. As many aging Ontario residents begin thinking about updating their estate plans, issues of capacity and dementia frequently arise.
Setting into motion safeguards – like powers of attorney, emergency contacts and clear estate plans – can help people protect themselves when capacity becomes an issue.
You should consider these issues as early as possible – even if your cognitive abilities are strong. However, it is not uncommon for people to procrastinate on planning for a potential future that may be difficult to accept.
If you are noticing early signs of dementia – or even if you’re not – it is wise to make it a priority to put plans in order as soon as possible that address a future scenario where your decision-making abilities may be limited. While this can be a sensitive issue to face, it can be worth broaching with your estate planning lawyer to protect your best interests and make sure your wishes are carried out – no matter what.
Unfortunately, we live in a world where the financial and emotional abuse of vulnerable adults is all too common. It is possible that others – even family members – could attempt to take advantage of someone who is starting to lose capacity. For example, a vulnerable adult may be subject to pressure from a relative to change their beneficiary designations. Working with an estate planning lawyer to designate the person (or people) you trust to make important decisions on your behalf is just one important step to protecting yourself in the future, in case you face a loss of capacity.
Losing your decision-making agency is a difficult possibility to face. However, having solid plans about what should happen should you lose capacity can serve as an enormous protection for you and your family.