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November Is Alzheimer's Awareness Month: Have You Completed Your Estate Planning Should You Become Mentally Incapacitated?

Posted by Judy Nakashima Shoji | Nov 06, 2020 | 0 Comments

Every 70 seconds, another American family is affected by Alzheimer's. Too often, I witness Alzheimer's and dementia care and estate squabbles that tear families apart. When there has not been the foresight and cooperative transparency regarding how the family wants the patient's estate plan executed, chaos and legal entanglements can ensue, irreparably damaging family bonds.

No one is immune to Alzheimer's and the havoc that can reverberate from it. A recent Forbes article underscores the harsh reality, describing seven celebrity estates impacted by estate issues in the aftermath. Fortunately, proper planning can help you avoid the same mistakes made by these famous people, and people just like yourselves.

The first thing you should ask yourself is, "If I'm ever incapacitated and unable to care for myself, who would I want to make decisions on my behalf?" You'll need to think about selecting the person or persons you want to make your healthcare, financial, and legal decisions for you until you pass away, and also afterward.

In the absence of proper estate planning, the court will typically appoint a guardian or conservator to make these decisions on your behalf. This person could be a family member who would never want to manage your affairs or a professional guardian who charges exorbitant fees. Either way, the choice will be out of your hands.

Furthermore, like most court proceedings, the process of naming a guardian is often time-consuming, costly, and emotionally draining for families. If you're lying unconscious in a hospital bed, the last thing you would want is to waste time or impose additional hardship on your loved ones. And this is assuming your family members agree about what's in your best interest.

Luckily, you can easily avoid potential turmoil and expense with proper estate planning. An effective plan would give the individuals you've chosen immediate authority to make your medical, financial, and legal decisions without the need for court intervention. What's more, the plan can provide clear direction about your wishes, so there's no mistake or conflict about how they should make these vital decisions.

You may be powerless to prevent incapacity. However, proper estate planning can give you control over how you want your life and assets managed should you ever become mentally incapacitated. Moreover, such planning can prevent your family from enduring needless trauma, conflict, and expense during this already trying time.

If you've yet to plan for incapacity, we can counsel you on the proper planning vehicles to put in place and help you select the individuals best suited to make such critical decisions on your behalf. If you already have planning strategies in place, we can review them to ensure you or your previous counsel set up your plan correctly and then maintained and updated it to agree with your current wishes.

Contact us today to get started. We are here to listen and help. 

About the Author

Judy Nakashima Shoji

Judy prides herself on being approachable, down to earth and willing to answer any questions hr clients may have. She is a Seattle native. She attended the University of Washington, Tokyo University and Seattle University School of Law. She was a legal intern in the Civil Division of the Seattle City Attorney's Office and at Yasuda Fire and Marine Insurance Company located in Shinjuku, Japan. Judy advises clients in all aspects of estate planning, probate and adoptions. She also serves as a Title 11 court appointed investigator in guardianship cases for King County Superior Court. She cannot think of any areas in which she would rather practice. She invests in learning about her client's whole story which creates a friendly environment in which she can provide more effective assistance. Her goal is for her estate planning clients to walk away with a customized, detailed, realistic, and clear estate plan which will accomplish their wishes. Estate planning can be uncomfortable and confusing and her goal is to explain complicated legal options in a way that is easy to understand and clear. Her desire is to provide peace of mind and clarity for her clients while also giving them the information necessary to make well informed decision. Judy has been a member of the Elder Law and Real Property and Trust sections of the Washington State Bar Association and King County Bar Association. She has been a volunteer attorney with the King County Bar Association Neighborhood Clinic and Pro Bono Services for the past 14 years where she was recognized as volunteer of the month in October 2014. Judy is married with three children. Outside of work she enjoys traveling to sunny locations, exercising (HIIT and barbell classes keep her grounded) and spending time with the people (and animals) she loves.

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