A person’s mental capacity may naturally diminish over time. But actually seeing a loved one or relative beginning to lose their mental faculties as they age can be very difficult – particularly if you don’t know what to do about it.
Here are some considerations for what you can do when you think a loved one is not of sound mind.
What Does It Mean to Be of “Sound Mind?”
To be “of sound mind,” a person must have the mental capacity necessary to fully understand what they are doing and any legal ramifications of their decisions. Since a person can make changes to their Last Will and Testament or other estate planning documentation at any time, ensuring a loved one is of sound mind prior to making these changes is paramount. Otherwise, a person could manipulate your loved one into making changes to their estate plan they may not understand. Not only would this cause undue stress on the loved one, but it could also lead to a contested will and other inheritance disputes.
Just because a person is eccentric, unusual or forgetful does not mean they are not of sound mind. Typically, prior to signing any legal documents such as a Last Will and Testament or trust, a lawyer verifies whether a person is of sound mind by asking a series of questions or having a doctor provide proof of the person’s mental wherewithal.
Power of Attorney
A Power of Attorney (POA) allows you to appoint a person, known as the “attorney in fact,” to manage your affairs in the event you become unable to do so. Powers of Attorney are commonly created and signed alongside other estate planning documents such as a Last Will and Testament. A POA is typically the best and smoothest way for someone to step in and manage a person’s affairs when they are no longer of sound mind. However, if your loved one never signed a POA, you may have to go to a court to have your loved one declared mentally incompetent before seeking guardianship or conservatorship.
How is a Power of Attorney Different from a Guardian or Conservator?
Financial and healthcare POAs confine the attorney in fact’s duties to items specified within the document. Unlike a Power of Attorney, a guardianship or conservatorship gives another person greater power over the day-to-day decisions for their ward. A Power of Attorney, for example, cannot determine whether a person must change their residence. This responsibility would fall to a guardian or conservator.power
Getting started with estate planning before the issue of “sound mind” arises saves your loved ones a great deal of stress and concern. Don’t wait until it’s too late to put your estate plan together. Contact a Fifth Third Bank financial advisor today to get started.