This week is Dementia Action week (21-27 May) organised by the charity Alzheimer's Society. According to the charity, there are more than 850,000 people in the UK living with dementia and this is set to rise to over 1 million by 2025.
Alzheimer's Society is calling on people to take action to assist those living with dementia. Dementia is commonly seen as something that affects the elderly only, but it can affect younger people as well. There are more than 42,000 people in the UK under 65 with Dementia. It's therefore becoming increasingly important to continue to raise awareness of dementia and this article considers practical steps that can be taken to help you and your family plan for the future.
Powers of Attorney
A Power of Attorney is a legal document that is used if you lose mental capacity or are unable to manage your own affairs. The document allows you to appoint one or more people as your Attorney to be responsible for dealing with your affairs in the event that you become unable to do so yourself. It can cover both financial and welfare matters, such as where you might live and the medical treatment you might receive.
It is a common misconception that should someone become incapable of dealing with their own affairs, their spouse or close family members will be able to act on their behalf. Unless there is a Power of Attorney set up in advance, no one has an automatic authority to make decisions on your behalf.
What happens if there is no Power of Attorney in place?
If you have not appointed an Attorney and lose capacity, an application will need to be made to the Court to appoint a Guardian so that someone has authority to start managing your affairs. This is a time consuming and costly process. There is also the possibility that the person who is appointed by the Court may not be who you would've chosen as your Attorney. The best way to safeguard your affairs is to put in place a Power of Attorney early. Hopefully it won't be needed but if it is, it will be invaluable.
Making a Will
It is also important to ensure that your Will is reviewed regularly and is up-to-date. If you lose mental capacity, you will be unable to make a new Will or review your current one. If you die without making a Will, your estate will be divided in accordance with an inflexible set of rules, there will be a possibility of increased costs to your estate and your estate may not be distributed in accordance with your wishes. These are just some of the many reasons to ensure you have an up-to-date valid Will.
Living Wills/Advance Directives
An Advance Directive is a document that allows you to inform your family and healthcare professionals of your wishes regarding specific medical treatments in the future should you become unable to do so yourself. Advance Directives are not legally binding in Scotland but they can be very persuasive. The document can be used as a guide to those who need to make decisions about your care.
Similarly to an Advance Directive, an Advance Statement allows individuals who have a mental disorder (including dementia) to record how they would wish to be treated if they can no longer make decisions for themselves. Advance Statements look more specifically at future care in the context of mental health.
If you would like more information about Powers of Attorney, Wills, Living Wills or Advance Statements please get in touch with our Private Client team.