woman with parkinson's disease holding hands with nurse

Why an Estate Plan Is Essential If You Have Parkinson’s Disease

After a devastating diagnosis like Parkinson’s disease, you will likely spend some time thinking about your future and how the progressive nervous disorder will impact your life. Although there is no cure yet for Parkinson’s, you might want to manage the things that are within your control. For example, some medications can slow the progress of Parkinson’s disease. 

Talking with a California estate planning attorney can help you exercise some control over your future financial situation and medical decisions. Having a voice on those issues is why an estate plan is essential if you have Parkinson’s disease.

Legal Documents That Can Benefit People Living with Parkinson’s Disease

Many people think of estate planning merely as writing a will or living trust that states how you want your assets distributed after your death. In reality, an estate plan can protect you during your lifetime as well. Here are some documents that can be valuable for people with Parkinson’s disease:

  • Durable Power of Attorney for Financial Management. If you become incapacitated from an illness or injury, signing a durable power of attorney ahead of time can give someone the legal authority to handle your bill-paying, bank accounts, investments, and other property for you.
  • Advance Health Care Directive. This document lets you decide who will make your medical decisions if you cannot perform that function or communicate your wishes.
  • Medical Records Authorization. The person who makes your medical decisions needs to have access to your medical records to make informed decisions about your healthcare.

In some situations, it might be appropriate to create additional legal documents to protect you and your loved ones.

How Parkinson’s Disease Can Affect Your Legal Capacity

As the disease worsens, you might develop difficulty expressing your wishes by speaking or writing. Also, you might experience cognitive challenges. The Mayo Clinic says that Parkinson’s can cause slurred speech or other difficulties producing speech that others can understand. 

The illness can also make it hard for you to communicate your wishes in written form due to tremors and other nerve and muscle impairments. In the later stages of Parkinson’s, a person can develop dementia and other cognitive losses.

Depending on the severity of the disease, a judge might decide that the person with Parkinson’s no longer has the legal capacity to act on his own behalf. If that happens, it is too late for you to sign legal documents, like a power of attorney, living trust, or other papers. 

The court may need to appoint someone to serve as your conservator or guardian and make decisions about where you live, what medical care you receive, and day-to-day personal choices. Also, the judge would have to appoint someone to manage your money for you. Although the individuals the court selects might look fine on paper, the appointees might be the last people you would want to make your decisions for you. 

A California estate planning attorney can help you create an estate plan that will let you choose who will take care of you and your assets if you become vulnerable because of Parkinson’s disease or some other illness or injury. An estate plan can also let you decide who will inherit from you one day. Contact us today.