‘Think To The Future’ In Dementia Awareness Week

Week-Long Campaign A Timely Reminder On Importance Of Legal Preparations

20.05.2012

Lawyers at Irwin Mitchell are calling on families concerned about the devastating impact of dementia to seek legal advice at the first opportunity to avoid heartache in the future, as a campaign gets underway to raise awareness of the condition.

Dementia Awareness Week is being held from May 20th to promote understanding of the illness – which currently affects around 800,000 people in the UK with the number expected to increase as average life expectancy continues to rise.

Irwin Mitchell is lending its support to the campaign by calling on those with a long history of the condition in the family, as well as those at the early stages of development, to recognise how forward planning could help to spare their loved ones much heartache in the future.

Adam Draper, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell who specialises in estate disputes, outlined: “We regularly see the difficulties that dementia can cause for families, with such problems leaving loved ones with no idea as to how their estate should be divided and often leading to emotionally difficult disputes.

“It is best to avoid the situation in the first place by ensuring you take steps to ensure loved ones know how you would like your affairs to be dealt with. “

Below are a list of tips that Irwin Mitchell’s team of legal specialists suggest families should bear in mind if they are concerned about this issue:

Prepare a Will and keep it updated

Everyone needs a Will and a condition like dementia demonstrates why it is so important for people to think about such issues sooner rather than later.

Adam explains: “Through my work in will disputes, we act in numerous cases which have arisen after people have died without putting provisions in place for the future – leaving families and friends facing an uncertain future as to what they are entitled to.

“Writing a will with professional legal advice can ensure that clear, concise and understandable instructions on how an estate should be divided are left for relatives to follow. You must also remember to update a Will when necessary to ensure that your wishes are still met.

“Doing this as early as possible can take a huge weight off you and your family when you have health issues to think about.”

Lasting Power of Attorney

A Lasting Power of Attorney allows people to appoint someone to make decisions about their financial affairs and general welfare.

Irwin Mitchell has worked on numerous cases related to the area, including one in which they helped a dementia sufferer’s husband gain access to her finances so he could continue to ensure her care was funded.

Gillian Coverley, a Partner at Irwin Mitchell, said: “Our client lost capacity following a stroke but, as her bank account and investments were in her sole name and she had not executed a power of attorney, the funds could not be accessed and were frozen.

 “While her husband had some finances in his own name to fund her care, it was clear this funding was not going to last forever.”

Irwin Mitchell was appointed the client’s Deputy and, following a lengthy legal process, was able to access her funds and repay her husband.
 
“Had our client already executed and registered a Lasting Power of Attorney before she lost capacity, this situation would have been prevented as the Lasting Power of Attorney could have been used straight away to access her accounts and fund her care,” Gillian explains.

 “This case really shows how valuable a Lasting Power of Attorney is and how important it is to plan for the unexpected.”

Remember The Golden Rule

Families looking to ensure their loved ones’ wishes are met should also bear the ‘Golden Rule’ in mind when it is clear that dementia has impacted on their decision-making capacity.

Chris Walton, a will dispute specialist, explains: “The concept means that, in cases when a person – or testator – has suffered a serious illness, best practice is that wherever possible their Will should be witnessed by a medical practitioner who is satisfied with their capacity and records this in his notes.

“In addition, legal and medical advisors also need to take any earlier Will into account and discuss this if necessary with the testator. Finally, any instructions from a testator need to be taken while anyone who may stand to benefit or have an influence is absent from the room.”

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