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Powers of attorney for dementia patients: Who is involved?

Being diagnosed with dementia can be scary. Although each case is different and a surprise recovery or halt in progression of the illness is not unheard of, most California residents diagnosed with dementia will face a decline in mental, and eventually physical, faculties. At a certain point they will be incapacitated and unable to make decisions for themselves.

Those diagnosed with any kind of progressive mental disease will want make a plan for their future while they are still able. They need to choose a trusted individual -- perhaps a spouse, family member or good friend -- who can make health, financial and other important life decisions for them. This can be achieved with a power of attorney.

Every power of attorney document includes several important people who must be named. They are: 1) the donor; 2) the attorney; 3) the certificate provider; and 4) the witness. Let's look at who these individuals are exactly.

The donor is anyone 18 years of age or above who chooses to draft a power of attorney to take care of his or her affairs. Donors who have dementia, for example, will want to create a medical power of attorney and a health care power of attorney to handle these important aspects of their lives. In order for the donor to qualify as mentally sound enough to create the power of attorney, a physician may be required to assess the donor's mental soundness.

The attorney is not an actual lawyer, though he or she can be. The 'attorney' in this context is any person or people who the donor selects to have decision making authority in the event of incapacitation.

The certificate provider is the person, like the physician referenced above, will certify that the donor is mentally sound enough to willingly give up his or her decision-making authority to the attorney. The certificate provider will also confirm that the donor was not subjected to undue pressure in completing the power of attorney.

Finally, we have the witness. This person dates and signs the form to certify that the attorney and the donor were the actual individuals who signed the power of attorney document.

Have you or a loved one been diagnosed with dementia and you need to set up a power of attorney? A California estate planning lawyer can help.

Source: Dummies, "Creating Lasting Power of Attorney When You Have Dementia," Simon Atkins, accessed Dec. 11, 2015

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