Your dementia diagnosis won’t stop you making a will
Posted on 28th June 2018
When you’re heading into your later years, one concern that will probably persistently niggle at the back of your mind is the risk of dementia.
Steps to prevent dementia
In an ideal world we could all delay or avoid the onset of dementia entirely.
There is now a new national plan for family doctors to assess your dementia risks as part of the NHS health check, which is offered to patients aged between 40 and 74. You will be asked about your current lifestyle and be advised about steps you can take to reduce your level of risk.
The government believes that the simple 15-minute check will help to add years of good quality life. Public Health England says that changing everyday habits could make a difference in up to one third of dementia cases. Exercise, a healthy weight and maintaining normal blood pressure are all known to make a difference.
Because the symptoms of dementia change over time, an early diagnosis can help you to make plans for the future with confidence.
If you’re one of the 530,000 people in the UK that have been diagnosed with dementia there are still plenty of things you can do to help yourself and your family.
One is to make a will that will help your family understand your wishes. As long as you are able to make decisions, there is nothing to prevent you from making a will.
If you die without making a will (intestate) then the courts will deal with your estate according to strict rules, which might not be what you would wish.
To make a will you must have what is called 'testamentary capacity'. This legal term means that you must know what making a will involves and the effect it will have.
You will need to be fully aware of what you own and what you might owe (your assets and debts), now and in the future. You will also need to be able to clearly explain why you wish to leave (or not leave) things to specific people.
You can name the people you want to carry out your wishes (executors) and what should happen if the people you want to benefit from your will die before you.
Your will can be disputed if there’s any doubt about your capacity at the time you made it. However, there are steps you can take to make sure the wishes you include in your will are honoured.
If you have dementia, or another condition that could affect your decision-making, then it’s a good idea to have some medical evidence (a medical opinion) to confirm that you have testamentary capacity.
If your estate and wishes are straightforward, a letter from your GP might be all that’s needed.
If things are a little more complicated, or your GP has any doubts, then a more detailed report from a dementia expert could be needed.
It’s also a good idea to have help from someone who has training and experience in working with elderly or vulnerable clients. They will know how to use relevant sensory aids and will ask the right questions to help you explain your wishes clearly.
Once you have made your will, your wishes will be recorded, and it will be very difficult for anyone to change them, even if you later lose your decision-making capacity.
Your finances and care
It would also be a good idea to set up Lasting Powers of Attorney at the same time, so that someone can make decisions on your behalf about your finances or care, if needed.
If you have recently received a diagnosis of dementia and would like some advice about your will, then please get in touch.
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