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Expected prevalence of dementia argues for estate planning now

It is estimated that one in eight baby boomers will develop some form of dementia, such as Alzheimer's, after they turn 65. That's according to the Alzheimer's Association. The group estimates that of those boomers who reach 85, half will develop the debilitating effects. With statistics like that is it any wonder why estate planning attorneys in New Jersey and elsewhere work so hard to deliver the message that the time to plan is now?

While it might be nice to think "it could never happen to me," the reality is that it can happen to anyone. In some cases, it may happen gradually. In others, it can occur suddenly, as in the case of a stroke. Without binding documents that lay out your wishes, name individuals who will serve in roles of guardianships or conservatorships for you, and make end-of-life ideals clear, your fate could be left in the hands of a court.

Here are issues to consider now.

Health care decisions: Medical decisions need to be made. If you can't, who will? You can cover the base by asking someone to serve as your health care proxy. With the help of an attorney you can be sure that copies get into the hands of the named proxy, your primary doctor and a third backup person you trust.

Final wishes: Do you know how you want yourself cared for in an end-of-life situation? By putting it into a living will, or advanced directive, you ensure your wishes are adhered to to the greatest extent possible whether you want full measures taken or issue a do not resuscitate order.

Finances: If you can't manage your money, who will? Assigning durable power of attorney to a trusted family member or friend can give you confidence that your needs will be met with your best interests at heart. It's good practice to name a backup agent if the first person can't perform the duties. As an add-on to the power of attorney, you can set up a living trust, or revocable trust, to manage your assets on your behalf if you become unable to.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of matters that are covered under solid estate planning. Contacting an attorney to discuss all the options is always the best way to proceed.

Source: Forbes, "Mike Wallace Death Underlines Need To Prepare Financially For Risk Of Dementia," Deborah L. Jacobs, April 8, 2012

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