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Understanding Legal Capacity and Dementia 

Jan. 25, 2024

Senior man losing parts of head as symbol of Memory loss Living with dementia can be overwhelming for individuals diagnosed with the condition, as well as their loved ones. It's a path filled with emotional, physical, and legal complexities that can seem daunting. At Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC, we empathize with your situation and offer our support.  

Our firm, located in Green Bay, Wisconsin, is dedicated to serving clients throughout Brown, Oconto, Shawano, Kewaunee, and Door Counties. Our experienced team of attorneys is committed to providing compassionate guidance and professional assistance, particularly in handling the legal aspects of dementia.  

The Impact of Dementia on Legal Capacity 

Legal capacity refers to a person's ability to comprehend and make informed decisions about their personal and financial affairs. In the context of dementia, one's legal capacity can become compromised as the disease takes hold. Dementia is a progressive condition that affects cognitive functions, including memory, reasoning, and judgment. As dementia advances, it may become challenging for individuals to grasp complex legal matters, manage their finances, or make sound decisions. Recognizing the impact of dementia on legal capacity is crucial to ensure that appropriate legal measures are established to safeguard the individual's best interests.  

Assessing Legal Capacity

Assessing legal capacity in individuals with dementia requires a comprehensive evaluation by qualified professionals. This assessment typically involves a thorough examination of the individual's cognitive abilities, their understanding of the consequences of their decisions, and their ability to communicate their wishes. Our team at Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC, works closely with medical experts and other professionals to conduct these assessments and provide accurate evaluations of legal capacity. By conducting these assessments, we can ensure that the rights and interests of individuals with dementia are protected and that needed legal provisions are in place to support their decision-making.  

Legal Tools for Decision-Making

To protect the rights and interests of individuals with dementia, various estate planning tools can be utilized. These tools are essential in ensuring that their wishes are respected and protected, even as the disease progresses and affects their capacity to make informed decisions. Here are some of these vital tools: 

  • Power of Attorney (POA): This document allows a person to appoint a trusted individual to make financial and legal decisions on their behalf when they are no longer able to do so. The appointed person, also known as an agent, can manage tasks such as paying bills, managing real estate, and handling other financial matters. 

  • Advance Healthcare Directive: This document lets people specify their medical preferences for future care. It also allows them to appoint a healthcare proxy or surrogate to make medical decisions on their behalf when they're unable to do so. 

  • Will: A will is a legal document that outlines how a person wants their assets distributed after their death. It's crucial for a person to create a will while they still have the legal capacity to do so, ensuring their wishes are outlined and legally valid.  

  • Trust: A trust is a private legal arrangement where assets are held by a trustee for the benefit of others, known as beneficiaries. Trusts can be used to avoid probate, manage assets if a person becomes incapacitated, and maintain privacy. 

  • Guardianship/Conservatorship: If a person with dementia becomes unable to make personal and financial decisions, a court may appoint a guardian or conservator to make decisions for them. This is generally considered a last resort if no other legal documents have been put in place. 

At Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC, we understand the importance of setting up these legal tools early in the diagnosis process. We are here to assist you every step of the way.  

Compassionate Legal Help

Understanding the legal implications associated with dementia and estate planning can be a lot to take in. However, it's crucial to ensure that the rights and interests of individuals diagnosed with the condition are protected. At Lewis & Van Sickle, LLC, we're committed to helping you through these complexities, providing guidance, and implementing effective legal measures.  

Our team of experienced attorneys serves clients throughout Green Bay, Wisconsin, and surrounding areas. We're here to provide compassionate support and guidance as you work to understand the legal aspects of dementia. Reach out to us today, and let's walk this journey together.