Frequently asked questions about dementia legal issues
Sadly, as dementia progresses, eventually the sufferer will be unlikely to be able to make all of their own decisions. When someone is judged to not be able to make important choices themselves anymore, for this reason, it’s known as lacking mental capacity. Unless someone else has already been registered or appointed to legally make decisions on their behalf, it can cause all kinds of legal issues with dementia patients and their care, finances or welfare.
We have compiled information on some of the areas of dementia and the law (in England and Wales) that we are asked about the most. However, if you can’t find an answer to your question or issue here, please do contact the team at Stephensons, who will be happy to help. Call us on 0161 696 6238.
Can a dementia patient sign a legal document?
The question ‘can a person with dementia sign legal documents?’ doesn’t always have a straightforward answer. This is because dementia affects people in different ways and progresses at different rates for everyone. Someone who has been diagnosed with dementia, but where the condition is still in the early stages, is likely to still have the mental capacity to make decisions for themselves. However, another dementia sufferer may not, or has ‘good days’ and ‘bad days’ where their capacity may fluctuate somewhat. If someone with dementia needs to sign a legal document, but it’s not clear whether they have the mental capacity to understand and evaluate what they are being asked to do properly, they may need to be assessed to see if they are capable of making the decisions needed.
If someone with dementia can sign legal documents at one point in time, it doesn’t necessarily mean they will be able to continue to do so in the long term. This is why we recommend that steps are taken to enable someone else to legally make important decisions on their behalf, when the time comes that this is needed.
When can a person with dementia make legal decisions?
Someone who has been diagnosed with dementia can make legal decisions about themselves, their money, property, health and welfare, as long as they are deemed to have the mental capacity to do so. If they are assessed and found to lack mental capacity, someone else will need to make decisions, that are in the individual’s best interests, instead.
The person with dementia may have already registered someone (or several people) with a lasting power of attorney (LPA). The LPA gives the person or people registered the legal authority to make decisions on behalf of the person who lacks mental capacity. This type of arrangement can only be made when the person with dementia still has mental capacity.
If the person with dementia lacks mental capacity and can’t make their own decisions about things such as their finances or healthcare, but there is no LPA already in place, someone will need to apply to the Court of Protection to be appointed as a deputy. Applying to be a Court of Protection deputy can be a complex process, so it’s recommended that you consult an expert dementia-friendly solicitor, who can help with every stage of the process. Get in touch with the team at Stephensons today to find out more. Call 0161 696 6238.
Can a dementia patient legally make advance statements or advance decisions?
As with other important decisions, someone who has been diagnosed with dementia can take steps to prepare for future life, financial or health-related decisions, as long as they have mental capacity at the time that they do so. This may require a medical assessment and for some statements or forms to be witnessed or involve a solicitor.
An advance statement is a written statement that sets out someone’s wishes and preferences in regard to their future care. This can be a useful document if a person has been diagnosed with dementia and it is likely that they will not have mental capacity at some point in the future, when decisions may be needed. This type of statement isn’t legally binding but should be taken into account by all parties when relevant decisions need to be made.
An advance decision is a written statement that can be made, which will make it known that you wish to refuse a specific type of treatment in the future e.g. life sustaining treatment if you become ill. This statement is legally binding if done in accordance to the guidelines set out in the Mental Capacity Act 2005.
For more information on any of the legal issues associated with dementia, please get in touch with the expert team at Stephensons today. Call us on 0161 696 6238.
The advice provided to non-face to face clients will be through electronic or written communication only e.g. by telephone and email. Stephensons Solicitors LLP assumes no responsibility for, and shall not be liable for, (a) verification of mental capacity or testamentary capacity (b) verification of any undue influence or duress involved (c) the execution of any documents.