Estate planning is not something that most people want to think about since it requires them to consider their deaths. That may be uncomfortable enough, but it also requires contemplation of incapacitation by an illness or injury.

Some illnesses strike without warning, so the sooner you make the appropriate plans, the greater the chances are that everything will go smoothly if it happens. For example, waiting until after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s could prove too late to put the proper protections in place.

Powers of attorney

A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone you trust to make decisions for you if you no longer can. You could have a power of attorney allowing someone to handle your finances and one to handle your health care and medical needs. However, if you wait until after a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, it may be too late to put these documents into place.

Exhibiting the mental capacity to understand the implications of the documents you are to sign is one of the legal requirements for executing these and other estate planning documents. Once you have a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, an attorney may not feel comfortable letting you sign these documents. Most attorneys are not doctors, so they have no way to confirm that you are of sound mind.

This does not mean that you cannot execute powers of attorney, however. An attorney may “quiz” you regarding the contents of the document to make sure you understand the legal ramifications of doing so. This process may also include other basic questions to make sure that you know where you are and what you are doing. If the attorney, the witnesses and the notary public all agree, the execution of the powers of attorney may move forward.

Why take a chance?

Even though you may get the chance after a diagnosis, why risk it? If you fail to have legally executed powers of attorney in place, and it’s considered too late to execute them, then your family members will have to go to court in order to get a Pennsylvania judge’s approval to care for you. This process takes time and money that your condition and circumstances may not allow for.

Even though it may cause you some discomfort to think about a time when you can’t make decisions for yourself, the short time you do could help ease the minds of your loved ones now and in the future.