A lot of families in North Carolina have either personally been affected by Alzheimer’s disease, or know a family who has. As the population gets older and more people receive Alzheimer’s disease diagnoses, the condition is affecting the lives of millions of people. Because there is no treatment or cure for Alzheimer’s disease, knowing how the disease will affect your estate, and your ability to create an estate plan, is essential. It is particularly important to understand how Alzheimer’s disease can lead to estate litigation, and how you can take steps to avoid such problems.
Alzheimer’s Disease and Aging
It can be useful to think of Alzheimer’s disease as not a single medical condition, but rather a spectrum of conditions. As people age, we naturally lose some of our abilities. Whether these abilities are physical or mental, we learn to cope with the new realities in our lives. For some people, these new realities are little different than what they knew when they were younger, while for others there are significant changes they need to make.
Like aging itself, Alzheimer’s disease has stages. In the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease, most people are entirely capable of making their own decisions. They are capable, for example, of making whatever estate planning devices they need to create in order to protect themselves and their estates.
However, for people who are in an advanced stage of Alzheimer’s disease, the ability to make decisions and to create estate planning documents is compromised. People with advanced Alzheimer’s disease do not have the ability to make knowledgeable choices. Should these people try to create estate planning devices, this can easily lead to estate litigation.
Alzheimer’s and Estate Litigation
Everyone creating any kind of estate planning device must have the requisite mental capacity. To create a last will and testament, for example, you must be of sound mind. This means you must be able to understand what you own, be able to understand who your heirs are, and be able to understand how your inheritance choices affect your estate.
Should you, or a family member, create an estate planning device while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, you must be careful. You must be able to show that, at the time you created the estate planning device, you were mentally capable.
Depending on the stage of the disease and your individual circumstances, you might have to take additional steps. For example, you might have to see a physician shortly before you create your estate planning tools. As long as the physician diagnoses you as being mentally capable, you can create the devices you need to make. Otherwise, should you create an estate planning tool while suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, others might be able to challenge your decisions.