Planning for Mental Disability

According to the National Institute on Aging (NIH), the spike in the average life expectancy in the 20th century is one of the greatest achievements of modern society. Though most of the babies that were born in 1900 didn’t live past the age of 50, the life expectancy at birth today is 81 in many developed countries.

With people living longer than ever before, we are seeing more cases of Alzheimer’s disease, an irreversible, progressive brain disorder that wipes out memory and cognitive thinking skills.

In most people who get Alzheimer’s, symptoms begin to appear in their mid-60s. While estimates vary, experts estimate that more than 5 million Americans have Alzheimer’s.

Advanced Alzheimer’s Disease

In the beginning stages of Alzheimer’s, the person experiences memory loss and cognitive difficulties. As the disease progresses, the brain tissue shrinks significantly and the individual cannot communicate and becomes completely dependent on others for care. Near the end, the person is bedridden and their body completely shuts down.

Planning for Cognitive Impairment

If you are worried about getting Alzheimer’s or becoming cognitively impaired due to the advance symptoms of aging, you can incorporate disability planning into your overall estate plan.

Depending on where you live, conservatorship can be avoided by creating powers of attorney, revocable living trusts, and advance medical directives, which should be a part of everyone’s estate plan.

Conservatorship, sometimes called “guardianship,” is a legal proceeding where the court appoints a conservator to exercise some or all of the legal rights of the incapacitated person.

The two main aspects of mental disability planning involve: deciding who will take care of you, and deciding who will take care of your finances.

If you want to avoid a court-appointed conservatorship, you can work with an estate planning attorney who can help you plan for the possibility of cognitive impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease.