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Modern Estate Planning Blog

Elder Law & Special Needs Planning

When Mental Decline Derails Your Estate Plan | Sacramento Wills and Trusts

January 30, 2012

Estate planning attorneys in Sacramento can tell you that there is little that is as frustrating as someone who waits until it’s “too late” to start the estate planning process. Mental decline is a common part of aging, and it is an unfortunate fact that when this decline starts to advance, it can become much more difficult to have your wishes followed.

There are multiple reasons that this happens, and while your estate planning attorney in Sacramento will work within all applicable local and state laws, there may be some limitations caused by any real or suspected impairment.


One of the obvious reasons not to put estate planning off until after the onset of a mental decline is that you simply might not be able to make the choices you would have truly wanted. Forgetfulness, irritability, and other symptoms of memory loss can all get in the way.  It is easier to overlook someone, to forget about an account, or even to have unclear feelings and motivations come into play.


Even if you are able to lay out your decisions just as you would like them, that doesn’t mean that others will be happy or accepting of them. If a family member feels that he or she has been slighted, it’s not uncommon for him or her to contest your decisions, claiming that you were not thinking clearly due to mental decline. These types of claims can derail your entire estate plan and cost the estate and other heirs a lot of time and money.

Asset Protection

Another very important reason to work with an estate planning attorney as early as possible is that it can save you a lot of money that can become your legacy to those you leave behind. A lawyer here in Sacramento, for example, will have insight into how best to create appropriate trusts that can protect your assets should you later need to move to a nursing home or other assisted living facility. For the purposes of Medi-Cal (Medicaid), for example, these trusts must be set up a minimum of five years before you need long-term care or else they can be depleted for living costs.

How to Get Started

Your estate planning attorney will be able to help you with how best to outline your wishes and to protect your assets. Finding a skilled lawyer with the right expertise should be one of your first steps. Next, identify your assets, both those things that have monetary value, and those that have sentimental value. You’ll want to determine who should inherit them. This can extend to everything from family jewelry to insurance policies and bank accounts.

In addition to wills and trusts, estate planning should also include considerations for your medical care and financial wellbeing in the future. You will want to name powers of attorney for your financial and medical decisions. The estate planning attorney will then help you to set up the correct documentation to get your wishes set before it’s “too late.”

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Thanks for holding my hand. So glad you made things easier for me. I really don't know how I would have understood any of this without your knowledge.

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