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Do you know how to recognize lack of capacity?

If you are the adult child of elderly parents, you may be thinking about helping your parents with their long-term planning. Estate planning is not a topic just for the wealthy; everyone can benefit from advance planning about how to manage their assets after they pass away.

One factor that often comes into play in cases of estate planning, and especially power of attorney, is that of lack of capacity. If you help your parents with their estate planning, or if you are thinking about how to begin the conversation, lack of capacity is one factor you need to take into consideration.

Lack of capacity and power of attorney

Lack of capacity is when a person is no longer able to effectively make her or his own decisions for a variety of reasons. The person may be unable to understand the information necessary for making a decision, she or he may be unable to communicate a decision, the person may be unable to retain information long enough to make a decision, or he or she may be unable to appropriately evaluate the information and take it into appropriate consideration to arrive at a decision. 

Lack of capacity can come into play when people experience a sudden accident that renders them unable to perform the aforementioned tasks related to decision making. It can also result from an illness such as Alzheimer's. If your parents are elderly, the possibility of losing capacity is something you should discuss as part of the overall estate planning process.

How to face lack of capacity

Advance planning is a key factor in dealing with the possibility of lack of capacity. Estate planning may entail certain legal instruments such as a healthcare power of attorney or a durable power of attorney. These legal instruments allow a person to designate a trusted representative who can make decisions in the event that the person becomes unable to do so on his or her own behalf.

There are many different elements in a power of attorney, and it is critical that your elderly parents get appropriate legal guidance in setting up this tool. Estate planning attorneys are professionals who have the experience to help people build a comprehensive plan for asset distribution after death, as well as advance planning with instruments such as power of attorney. 

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