Elder law issues: When a parent has dementia

Georgia and all other states require a person to be of sound mind when he or she signs legal documents, especially those pertaining to estate planning. However, how each state legally defines mental competence may vary. It is possible to have minor symptoms of dementia or other mental decline and still be deemed competent enough to sign a will or other legally enforceable document related to elder law issues.

Many adult children of aging parents showing signs of dementia or having been diagnosed with early-stage Alzheimer's disease enter durable powers of attorney. This allows them to step in when needed (as the disease progresses and the person afflicted no longer meets the state's legal definition for competence) to make financial or health care decisions on their parents' behalf. If no durable power of attorney is in place and an elder is no longer mentally competent, a next step would be to petition the court for legal guardianship. 

The latter is a more complicated process than the former. A person's testamentary capacity is determined by whether or not he or she is mentally capable of executing and signing a will. A testator (person signing a will) must be fully aware of numerous issues, such as who his or her nearest relative is and how much property he or she owns and what its value is.

Various factors have an impact on elder law issues. Georgia elders and their families do well to discuss such topics long before any adverse health conditions set in. Then again, mental incapacity sometimes occurs as a result of a sudden accident. In either case, an experienced long-term care planning attorney is a great source of support for those with questions related to such issues.

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