Diagnosed with dementia – can I still make a Will and appoint an attorney?
Many people when diagnosed with dementia worry if they’ve left it too late to get their legal affairs in order.
The answer, in most cases, is no. And here at Wards Solicitors, our specialist Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team, can guide you sensitively through the legal processes involved during what we know is a very frightening and unsettling time.
What should I do after a dementia diagnosis?
Once the initial shock has subsided, it’s obviously important to take action as soon as possible after any diagnosis, while the illness is still in its early stages. Steps include:
- Making or reviewing your Will – provided you meet the legal test for mental capacity, you can do this. Our solicitors are experienced in assessing capacity and can ensure everything is done to ensure your wishes are followed.
- Appointing a Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) – these are extremely important legal documents in which you give an attorney, someone you trust, the legal authority to make decisions for you if you are unable to make them yourself. There are two types, property and financial and health and welfare. Our solicitors are experienced in acting as Certificate Providers, confirming you have the mental capacity to understand the implications.
- Considering an Advance Decision – this confirms any medical and healthcare treatment you’d like to refuse in the future if you lose capacity to make that decision. Our solicitors can help ensure it doesn’t conflict with anything in your health and welfare LPA.
- Getting your financial papers in order – make sure your family know where everything is and leave a list of your assets and the relevant account numbers with someone you trust. Our solicitors can keep this paperwork safe for you for no charge.
What might the legal process involve?
Sometimes, our solicitors might advise you to have an expert medical report about your mental capacity.
Whilst there is a fee payable to a third party to prepare this, it will help fend off any challenge to the contents of your Will or LPAs at a later date.
Such a report would address whether you have the required level of understanding at law to make a Will and appoint LPAs.
We would discuss this fully with you first and you would need to agree to it before we proceeded.
We often advise this step if there is a likelihood of challenge or if we have concerns ourselves that a client may not fully understand all the documents. It is vitally important that we take such safeguarding measures when a person may be vulnerable and potentially more susceptible to duress.
Why choose Wards Solicitors?
Every member of our Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team has an in depth understanding of the issues that affect older and vulnerable people and knows how best to advise you, taking into account your personal circumstances.
Key to our ethos is making sure we fully understand your needs and wishes when helping you to get your affairs in order. This means we are dedicated to:
- Protecting you as a person – making sure your intentions are understood to take the decisions you want in your best interests. This includes an in-depth awareness of frailties and key illnesses and how to work with these.
- Protecting your assets – helping you confirm your wishes in a Will, manage your finances to reduce the impact of Inheritance Tax for your loved ones, looking at how to fund care in the future and setting up an LPA.
What specialist older client care accreditation do we hold?
Most of our Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity solicitors are accredited members of the highly respected Solicitors for the Elderly (SFE).
This important national organisation demands the highest standards from the 1600-plus lawyers it currently endorses. This includes studying, learning and sharing best practice with other like-minded professionals.
Members must spend at least half their time working with older and vulnerable people (those unable to make their own decisions or those in need of help to do so) and demonstrate the necessary legal expertise to provide the relevant advice.
Wards Solicitors’ Jenny Pierce, Managing Partner and head of the Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team, is a national director of SFE and regional coordinator for Bristol and Bath. Partner Ruth Coles is the SFE’s regional coordinator for Somerset.
Many of our lawyers are also members of the Society of Trust and Estate Practitioners (STEP), approved specialists in inheritance and succession planning. Again, extra study and evidence of developing expertise in this area of the law is needed to acquire accreditation.
Get in touch
Wards Solicitors’ wins high praise in the 2023 edition of the independent Legal 500 guide of outstanding legal professionals for its exceptional professional service standards and high levels of technical expertise.
If you need legal help after the diagnosis of dementia, please contact any member of our Wills, Probate and Mental Capacity team.
We offer a free initial appointment for you to discuss what you need and always provide clear cost details up front before starting any work.