Today sees the start of Dementia Awareness week in Scotland, which would usually culminate with Alzheimer Scotland’s annual conference. Sadly, the conference will not be taking place this year due to lockdown. However, during this time we can all continue to show support and continue to raise awareness for those living with dementia, their carers and families.
Now, possibly more than ever, it is important that those living with dementia and their families know that getting an individual’s legal affairs in order can alleviate the stresses that can arise when the condition worsens.
An individual with a dementia diagnosis can (depending on the stage of their condition) instruct a solicitor to assist them in putting their affairs in order whether this be in the preparation of a Power of Attorney or a Will. The lockdown has not resulted in solicitors being unable to take instructions – telephone instructions, video calls or even a socially distanced meeting can be arranged at this time. Where the diagnosis is early and the individual has capacity the individual with dementia would provide their solicitor with instructions and they would decide who they nominate as their Attorney to step in and act on their behalf at the relevant time.
At times, the condition can progress quickly - so timing may be of the essence. Should the individual instructing a Power of Attorney put this on hold, it can sometimes be too late. Where an individual has put a Power of Attorney off and is too late to instruct a solicitor to prepare the document, a family member or friend may require to instruct a guardianship application to obtain legal authority to make decisions for the individual – this can be time consuming, more expensive than instructing a Power of Attorney and a stressful time for the family. Where there is no-one able to undertake this role, the Local Authority may require to step in with an application for guardianship.
Where an individual with dementia has not put a Will in place and they lose capacity, the laws of succession in Scotland would then determine who would benefit from that individual’s estate – remember it may not always be who you think (or want) to benefit. Having your Will in place allows you to plan and decide who should benefit from your estate. An Attorney cannot make a Will on behalf of an individual who has lost capacity.
Instruction of these important legal documents should be considered early in an individual’s diagnosis to give them the comfort and peace of mind that their affairs are in order. Having your legal affairs in place can often avoid undue delays and distress further down the line for the individual or their family.
Many families provide essential support in assisting and caring for those living with dementia – perhaps we should all think about them on Thursday when we have been clapping for carers. You can also show your support to Alzheimer’s Scotland by decorating and displaying a forget-me-not flower as a symbol of support for people with dementia, their families and carers.
At TC Young we are proud to support Alzheimer’s Scotland. We have a number of Dementia Friends among our staff, together with an experienced Adults with Incapacity team who provide a friendly approach to assist individuals and their families when faced with dealing with a dementia diagnosis. Should you wish any additional information on putting your affairs in order or to seek advice on behalf of a family member, a member of our experienced Private Client Team will be happy to assist.