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Rise in Alzheimer’s, Dementia Deaths Emphasize Importance of Estate Planning

The London Telegraph recently reported that there has been a “huge rise in the number of lasting powers of attorney” filed with the government. The Telegraph said more than 441,000 powers of attorney were established in 2015, nearly 12 times as many as were filed in 2008, when the British government amended the laws governing powers of attorney in England and Wales.

The Telegraph noted the correlation between the increased filings of powers of attorney and new figures from the UK’s National Health Service indicating dementia and Alzheimer’s disease had become the leading cause of death in England and Wales, overtaking heart disease. The powers of attorney figures cited above were obtained by a pension company that told the Telegraph many British citizens were still at risk for losing control over their finances due to a lack of a legally executed power of attorney.

In the United States, Alzheimer’s is currently considered the sixth leading cause of death. According to the Alzheimer’s Association, more than 5 million American citizens suffer from the disease. One out of every nine people over the age of 65 will develop Alzheimer’s, and 1 out of every three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia.

How California Powers of Attorney Work

In California, like the United Kingdom, a person can sign a power of attorney to name someone to take control of his or her finances when no longer able to do so because of Alzheimer’s, dementia, or any other disability. California refers to such documents as a general durable power of attorney. There are also more limited grants of authority known as a special power of attorney.

With a general durable power of attorney, the agent you name can act in your place with respect to a wide variety of financial decisions. Among other things, your agent can sell your home, pay bills using your bank account, change the beneficiary designations on your retirement accounts, file your tax returns, and apply for government benefits on your behalf. The power of attorney is considered “durable” because it remains in effect even after you become physically or mentally incapacitated.

One thing to keep in mind is that a general durable power of attorney only designates an agent to manage your property and finances. If you also need someone to make health care (or end of life) decisions on your behalf, you need to create a separate California Advance Health Care Directive. This document includes both a living will, which allows you to provide directions to your medical providers, and a separate durable power of attorney that specifically applies to health care decisions.

Get Help From a California Estate Planning Lawyer

If you have been diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s or a similar dementia disorder, it is imperative you take immediate action to get your estate planning in order. For that matter, even if you are in perfect health right now, it is always a good idea to have a durable power of attorney just in case a sudden accident or illness renders you unable to manage your own affairs. If you need assistance from an experienced San Diego estate planning attorney on preparing a power of attorney or any related document, contact the Law Office of Scott C. Soady today.

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