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Talking to Parents About Estate Planning & Dementia 

Davidson Estate Law Sept. 30, 2022

Senior couple planning their investments with financial advisor.Grappling with the aging process can be difficult for both elderly parents and their adult children. This is especially true if you have a parent who’s showing early signs of dementia and you need to help them with their estate, healthcare, and financial planning. This process is difficult but not impossible, and working with an experienced estate planning attorney can help immensely.  

If you have questions or concerns surrounding talking about estate planning to parents with dementia, reach out to us at Davidson Estate Law in Oakland, California. Here, we’re able to help clients in Walnut Creek, Berkeley, San Francisco, El Cerrito, Alameda, and throughout the Bay Area. 

Common Estate Planning Issues for People With Dementia  

Estate planning for cognitive impairment is never an easy task, but it’s one that needs to be done quickly and efficiently before your loved one becomes so impaired they’re unable to legally take part in the process. Your parents may be reluctant to talk about these topics because they’re afraid of dying and don’t want to confront the reality of it. They may also be embarrassed about their mental condition and choose to ignore the problem, hoping it will go away. 

Another common concern when speaking with aging parents about estate planning (regardless of their mental capacity) is that they’re worried about starting a conflict within their family when deciding how to divide assets amongst their loved ones. These are issues that need to be dealt with, and your attorney can help you have these tough conversations and give you tips on how to make them more productive.  

Tips for Speaking With a Parent About Estate Planning  

Know upfront that this process may take time and your parents won’t always be in the right frame of mind to have these conversations. The most important thing is to be patient, kind, and persistent. You may want to enlist the help of a sibling or family friend to have these conversations. Many times a parent might be reluctant to speak directly with their child for fear of hurting their feelings, but will be able to communicate with a friend.  

It’s also important to start these conversations as soon as you can. Diseases like Alzheimer's can be fast-progressing, and healthcare planning and financial decisions for dementia must be done before it gets too bad. 

What Can Happen If They Don’t Plan  

When helping aging parents plan for their future, it’s essential to understand the relationship between legal capacity and estate planning. If the dementia has progressed too far, they won’t be able to understand the consequences of their decisions and won’t be legally allowed to sign off on their estate plan. If these decisions are not made in time, it will be up to the families to tackle these issues, and this can be especially hard if your parents have become too sick to make rational decisions. They may even forget who you are and act out angrily when you try to help them.  

Communicating Plans and Identifying Important Information  

The first step in estate planning with elderly parents is to document everything. Take notes every time you meet with them so it’s easy to review and remember what’s already been discussed. You’ll also want to locate all physical assets, as well as be granted access to things like retirement and bank accounts, deeds, wills, car titles, or pensions.  

The next most important step is to establish a power of attorney and have them write out a healthcare directive. These documents will allow you to establish your parents’ preferences for their medical care and make financial decisions for them should they become unable to communicate their wishes. 

How an Attorney Can Help  

If you’re in the Oakland, California, area and would like help estate planning with a parent with dementia, call us at Davidson Estate Law. We can walk you through the process to ensure you and your parents’ needs are taken care of and their wishes are honored.