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Feb 15, 2020 by |

California Elder Law Attorneys: Cognitive Decline Should Not Derail Estate Planning


Navigating The Financial Aspects of Cognitive Decline

Make An Inventory of Assets And Seek Professional Help

Consider Powers of Attorney and Revocable Trust Agreements

When a loved one is beginning to manifest signs cognitive decline, emotional and medical considerations often overshadow the financial planning that needs to occur. This is a potentially costly mistake. Families should not let a diagnosis derail proper planning; rather, there are a number of practical steps you can take to prepare for oncoming cognitive decline.  Revocable Living Trust arrangements, a current Will, and durable Powers of Attorney[1], for example, provide continuity when a senior is no longer able to manage her or his own affairs effectively. Valid Trusts and Wills ensure that at your death your assets pass to the beneficiaries you choose; without an estate plan the courts will often decide who gets your assets.   The estate planning team at Evans Law Firm, Inc. can work with you to develop the estate plan and Power of Attorney arrangements that are best for you.  Call us today at (415)441-8669.

Capacity to Make Wills and Trusts

Under California law, a person is not mentally competent to make a Will is she or he does not have the mental capacity to understand any of the following: (1) that he or she is creating a Will, (2)  the extent of his or her property, or (3) their relationship to the heirs.  Cal. Probate Code Section 6100.5.  The competence required to make a valid trust agreement is somewhat more stringent and includes an understanding of the consequences of making the trust, the rights, duties and responsibilities created by the trust, the risks and benefits involved, and the alternatives available.  Cal. Probate Code Section 812.

Other Steps To Take

In addition to having solid estate planning instruments and a Power of Attorney in place, here are some other tips on navigating the financial aspects of cognitive decline:

  • Make a detailed inventory of the senior’s assets and liabilities. Keep it current. Be sure to include online checking, savings, credit card and investment accounts which can be overlooked if they aren’t in paper form.
  • Estimate future costs to get a handle on, and plan form care costs and medications and services that may not be covered by Medicare or private health insurance.
  • Work with estate planning counsel, such as the lawyers at Evans Law Firm to keep Powers of Attorney and other important estate planning instruments current. Consider hiring expert help with bookkeeping such as the services of a professional fiduciary.
  • Automate finances by online bill payments so a senior’s taxes, utilities, insurance or other important bills are always paid on time and don’t fall through the cracks.

Keeping An Estate Plan Current

Whether your family’s estate plan is simple or more complex, our lawyers will help you identify the issues pertaining to your particular situation. We will advise what steps you need to take to ensure that your assets are managed properly if you become unable to manage them yourself as you age and disposed of at your death in the way you want them to be.  Planning in advance is critical; too often our litigators see the damage to family and loved ones where there isn’t a valid Will or trust in place that accurately reflects the decedent’s wishes or when a caregiver or other stranger gets a Power of Attorney over a senior’s property.  You can save your family a lot of heartache and loss by having a valid estate plan in place before your death. And never ever grant a Power of Attorney to a caregiver.

The estate planning lawyers at Evans Law Firm provides the following estate planning packages:

  • Will Package (includes Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive):
    • Individual $1,500
    • Couple $2,500
  • Living Trust Package (includes Revocable Living Trust, Will, Durable Power of Attorney, and Advance Health Care Directive):
    • Individual $2,500
    • Couple $3,500

If your estate plan requires additional advice or work beyond our basic packages, hourly rates will apply. For a more detailed description of our estate planning services see the Estate Planning page under Practice Areas on our website:

Contact Us

If you or a loved one needs estate planning advice here in California, contact Ingrid M. Evans and the other estate planning attorneys at Evans Law Firm at (415) 441-8669, or by email at <a href=””></a>. Our attorneys also handle cases involving physical and financial elder abuse, qui tam and whistleblower law, nursing home abuse, whole life insurance and universal life insurance, and indexed, variable, and fixed annuities.

[1] Both for financial affairs and healthcare decisions. The estate planning attorneys at Evans Law Firm, Inc. can prepare Powers of Attorney and Advance Health Care Directives for you.

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