It's hard to be prepared to hear from your physician that your mental processes are declining. For some, there may have been signs of a debilitating condition, and for others, an existing illness may have advanced to a new stage. In other situations, your intellectual faculties may seem to be functioning without signs of a problem. Regardless of your circumstances, the time to prepare for mental incapacity is now.
Consider Your Options
Depending on your situation, you may have time to take steps which will make you and your loved one's lives easier. For instance, preparing a California Advanced Health Care Directive (medical power of attorney) can be an excellent way to make sure that decisions about your medical care are made according to your wishes if you are incapacitated. This legal device allows you to name someone as your "agent" to make choices about your medical treatment if you are unable to say what you want. You may also leave specific instructions regarding your care. Further, your advanced directive may also be used to permit someone else to make medical decisions for you even though you are still capable of making your own choices.
By creating a power of attorney for finances, you can name someone you trust to attend to your financial interests. Depending on the type of power you choose, you can give this person as much or as little control as you would like over your fiscal interests. For example, you may want to limit their authority to certain types of accounts or restrict it to a specific time period. For someone facing incapacity, you may wish to provide language which makes the power effective only when an examining physician determines you are no longer able to make sound decisions.
If it is not possible to prepare these preliminary documents, your loved ones may have to turn to the court for assistance with your affairs. The probate court can appoint conservators for your medical care and financial interest if necessary.