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Can a Person With Alzheimer’s Sign Legal Documents?

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A wife accompanying her husband with Alzheimer's in consulting with a legal expert about signing legal documents,

There isn’t a simple answer to whether someone with Alzheimer’s can sign legal documents. Seeking the assistance of an experienced lawyer is typically the best idea because the answer is that it depends.

If a person still has legal capacity and can understand what they are signing, they can sign legal documents. Otherwise, they cannot.

There’s a good chance a senior with Alzheimer’s cannot sign legal documents if the disease has progressed to the point of the senior needing 24/7 memory care. Fortunately, dementia can be a slow-progressing disease, sometimes leaving time for older adults to plan for the future when they cannot make important decisions.

Power of attorney, power of attorney for healthcare, and a living will are all things an adult can have in place to determine where they want to retire, how their finances should be handled, and specific medical choices that should be made on their behalf.

What Is Alzheimer’s Disease?

Alzheimer’s disease, commonly known as Alzheimer’s, is a common form of dementia. It’s a progressive disease that often begins with mild memory loss. But it can progress to the point where an older adult can’t hold a conversation or respond to the environment around them.

Age is the most common risk factor for Alzheimer’s, but it can develop earlier in life. This is called early-onset Alzheimer’s and can affect people as early as their 30s.

Signing Legal Documents

For an individual to sign a legal document or make a critical medical decision, they must have legal or mental competence. This means they must be able to reason and deliberate, understand the circumstances, understand the information they’re given, and make an informed choice.

What If a Person with Alzheimer’s Signs a Legal Document?

This depends on each unique situation. For example, if a senior signs a legal document but then it’s discovered that they were not legally competent at the time, the document is void. But there’s no reason a senior can’t sign their legal documents if they can still make their own decisions, even with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.

Planning for the Future

Legal decision-making can get complicated without any plans in place. That’s why it’s important to consider these things early on with a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s. Laws and regulations may vary from state to state, but there are a few ways that an older adult can prepare for the future:

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney document allows the senior to choose someone ahead of time that can make critical legal and financial decisions on their behalf. This is often a spouse, domestic partner, trusted family member, or close friend.

Getting a power of attorney in place doesn’t mean that the senior cannot make their own decisions. They retain the right to make legal decisions until they do not have the legal capacity to do so.

Power of Attorney for Health Care

A power of attorney for health care is essentially the same thing as a power of attorney, except it specifically applies to the health and well-being of the senior. It’s sometimes referred to as an advance directive, giving a chosen person the ability to make critical medical decisions on the senior’s behalf.

These decisions include choosing doctors and other healthcare professionals, types of treatments, and even care settings like assisted living or memory care community choices.

a stethoscope on top of a Living Will Declaration paper

Living Will

A living will is another form of advance directive that enables older adults to make choices regarding their life before they cannot do so legally. This type of will typically comes into effect in medical situations where a doctor determines that a person can no longer make their own decisions regarding life-sustaining treatment.

For example, if a senior’s Alzheimer’s progresses to the point where they are in palliative care from the destruction of brain function, they’re unlikely able to make any decisions at that point. But a living will lets them decide on things like life support ahead of time.

Find Passionate Caregivers & Enriching Care

A diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s can be a scary step in a person’s life. But along with learning everything they can about the disease, it’s important to think about the future. Part of that future is where to spend their retirement. Finding a community offering assisted living and memory care services can make smooth transitions through these life stages.

If you or a loved one is considering retirement in the Maumee area, contact us today. Our compassionate team can answer all your questions about life at Maumee Pointe Assisted Living & Memory Care. We’re happy to schedule a tour of the community for you. 

Written by Angela Clark

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