Why Today’s Estate Planning in Georgia Addresses Cognitive Decline

Once your cognitive abilities begin to decline (which can start in your early 60s), your accounts could be at risk. Here’s how to protect them.
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Written by:Tim J. Wooten

Attorney at Law

Tim has 20 years of practice experience and has wide experience with federal and state courts throughout the country in insurance coverage, insurance defense, complex litigation, construction and design, product liability, breach of contract, federal tax controversy and disputes before the IRS and U.S. Tax Court, settlements and probate, and multi-jurisdictional litigation.
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People often view estate planning as a tool for passing on wealth after death. However, it serves many purposes during life, including legal documents to protect your money and oversee your medical care during cognitive decline or incapacity.

Why Include Advance Care in Estate Planning Today?

As we age, experiencing cognitive decline or incapacity without a plan leaves us vulnerable to delays in care, neglected financial affairs, and a court process to assign a representative. Often referred to as advance care planning, estate planning strategies give you more control over your financials and medical care if cognitive decline affects you.

Kiplinger article noted that typical age-related cognitive decline affects your financial decision-making over time, increasing the risk to your financial accounts. Working with an experienced estate planning attorney in Atlanta to update or create a plan that addresses dementia or other cognitive incapacity can give you peace of mind that you’ll receive the care you want and keep your financial affairs in order. 

Four Georgia Estate Planning Options to Address Cognitive Decline

Advance care in an estate plan enables someone you trust to guide doctors and medical facilities on your medical choices. Other options grant access to and authority to handle your financial affairs. Here are four options to consider:

A Medical Durable Power of Attorney (MDPOA)

Names or appoints someone you trust to make medical decisions or express your medical choices when you can’t. It initiates the minute you are incapacitated, including under anesthesia, dementia, stroke, or a come. 

A Financial Durable Power of Attorney

While a medical DPOA appoints someone to act and decide on your medical care, a financial DPOA allows someone to handle your financial affairs. That trusted person can pay bills and manage investments, as the DPOA specifies. 

Why a Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney is valid while you are alive until you cancel or update it. The POA remains in affect while you are incapacitated. With a non-durable POA the authority to act on your behalf ends if you become incapacitated. Learn more about POAs in our blog, The Difference Between Power of Attorney and Guardianship

Springing Power of Attorney

Unlike other powers of attorney, which are effective immediately, a springing POA is valid under specified conditions. It is an estate planning option that “springs into effect” and grants a trusted person to act on your behalf if you’re incapacitated. Talk with your estate planning attorney to discuss the drawbacks, like possible confusion in determining whether or not you’re incapacitated.

A Living Will/Advance Healthcare Directive (AHCD)

A legal document outlining your preferred healthcare. It details your end-of-life decisions, including medical treatments or care you want and don’t want, such as medications, life-saving measures, and pain management. 

Key Georgia Estate Planning Takeaways:

  • Today’s estate planning should address cognitive decline to protect your financial affairs and preserve your medical wishes.
  • A medical or financial power of attorney grants a trusted individual the authority to act on your behalf.
  • If you become incapacitated, a springing power of attorney “springs” into effect.
  • Legally document your end-of-life choices for treatment, medications, and life-saving measures with advance directives or a living will.

If you have an estate plan in Georgia or are thinking about one, implement a strategy, such as a durable power of attorney or advance directives, that empowers a trusted person to act or make medical decisions based on your best interests. Some of the document’s names may vary from state to state. However, estate planning attorney Timothy Wooten will know which ones you need in Atlanta.

Reference: Kiplinger (Feb. 7, 2024) “Is Your Estate Ready if You Experience Cognitive Decline?”

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