If you are in your retirement years, it’s a good time to consider writing a will. For those caring for a loved one with memory loss or another progressive disease, the task of writing their will may fall to you in some capacity. If your loved one wants help writing their will, you should get started as soon as possible, so your loved one can contribute to the process as much as possible.
According to Lonette Bentley, Executive Director at Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola, a memory care community in Pensacola, Florida, writing a will is an important task for seniors. “Taking the necessary steps to ensure their affairs are in order can even give people a sense of closure. Especially if the person is dealing with a recent diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or another form of dementia, writing a will can give them some peace of mind, knowing that such a task will already be taken care of once their disease progresses.”
10 Things to Know Before Writing a Will
If you’re preparing a will, it’s wise to gather as much information as possible before you start. AARP suggests a list of topics you should know about writing a will, from why it’s important to where you should keep your documents. Consider the following topics as you begin to write a will:
The Basics – To get started, a will is a legal document that states who gets what when you die. The writer of the will is called the testator. The person chosen to manage the will is called the executor, who executes all stated wishes. Those who receive property or assets are called beneficiaries.
Why Wills Matter – If you don’t have a will when you die, the distribution of your property and assets will be decided by the laws in your state. Your property will go through probate (expensive, lengthy court processes), and the court might make decisions about inheritance that you may not have wanted. If you want to have any say in who gets what once you’re gone, a will is a must.
Can I Do It Myself? – While an attorney can offer helpful legal advice about wills and estate planning, you don’t have to use one to write a will. As long as your will meets the requirements in your state, it will be valid if you write it yourself. If you choose this route, there are several do-it-yourself will kits available through online resources.
Joint vs. Separate Wills – Since it’s most likely that partners won’t die at the same time, it isn’t a good idea to write a joint will for both partners (some states don’t even recognize these). Even if they look similar, both spouses should have their own will. This is especially important if beneficiaries or property are connected to past marriages.
Witnesses – Laws regarding wills vary by state. While anyone can serve as a witness to your will, you should find someone who is disinterested, meaning that they aren’t a beneficiary or the lawyer who drafted your will. Some states require multiple witnesses, notarization and other procedures.
Choosing an Executor – A spouse or adult child is a common choice for an executor of your will. If your affairs are complicated, you may want to choose an attorney or someone with legal experience. Make sure your will states that your executor can pay bills and handle debts on your account, as well as other issues that might not be specifically stated in the will.
Letter of Instruction – A letter of instruction is an optional document to accompany a will. It can be written less formally than a will and include more detailed instructions about what items go to whom as well as passwords for specific accounts.
Where to Keep a Will – Your will needs to be safe yet accessible. If you keep it in a safe deposit box that only you can access, your family might have trouble retrieving it after you die. A good place to keep a will is in a waterproof, fireproof safe at home. Your attorney should keep signed copies in case the original is destroyed. However, without the original will, your wishes aren’t guaranteed, so it’s important to keep your original document safe.
Updating a Will – It’s up to you whether you update your will or not. However, it’s a good idea to update it whenever major changes occur, such as a divorce or marriage of yourself or beneficiaries, the birth of a child, the death of a beneficiary or executor, or a significant purchase that you want to include. Remember, only the will that is valid at the time of your death will matter legally. Many suggest reviewing your will every two or three years.
Contesting a Will – Contesting a will means challenging the legal validity of it. Someone, such as an ex-spouse, child, or other beneficiary who feels slighted, might contest a will if they think wishes go against state laws. Any will is at risk for being contested if there is some legitimate legal fault, such as a lack of witness, incompetency, or the result of coercion. The best way to guard against contesting is to have a clearly drafted and validly executed will.
Helping a Loved One with Dementia
“When helping a loved one with memory loss write a will, certain criteria has to be met,” says Bentley. “Your loved one must have ‘testamentary capacity’ in order to sign a will and make it valid. As long as your loved one is lucid and understands what they are signing, they have the mental capacity to legalize their will. To protect your loved one’s will from a contest, you could have their lawyer video tape them signing the will, or record your loved one answering questions to prove that they are lucid. This is one of the biggest reasons to create your loved one’s will as early in their disease as possible.”
If you would like to learn more about writing a will for a loved one with dementia, you can contact Clarity Pointe™ Pensacola. We’re here to help you and your loved one with all your senior living and memory care needs.
Clarity Pointe … Our Difference is Clear
Clarity Pointe’s™ Specialized Memory Care “Living” Neighborhoods are truly changing lives for those with Alzheimer’s disease and other dementias – and for those who love them. At Clarity Pointe, our mission is to ensure our residents lead connected and rewarding lives.
Unlike other providers that offer a secure memory care wing in a skilled nursing or assisted living center, Clarity Pointe Pensacola offers three free-standing, purpose-built memory care communities that are solely and entirely dedicated to memory care assisted living. Our communities blend luxurious surroundings with specialized care that is individualized to each resident and delivered by a compassionate, expert team of professionals.
We stay current on the latest trends and advancements in Alzheimer’s care and implement them into our residents’ care plans. Always moving forward, we combine the latest in evidence-based programming with luxurious, residential living and compassionate respectful care.
For each of our residents, we offer a life that is engaging, fulfilling, inspiring and meaningful.