A growing “epidemic” of dementia

Leaders from the Group of Eight (G8) industrialized countries are met last week in London for a special summit on a rapidly growing problem: dementia. Dementia is a medical disorder affecting cognitive function. It includes Alzheimer’s, vascular dementia, dementia with Lewy bodies (DLB), fronto-temporal dementia, and a variety of others that impact patient memory, thinking, and even behavior.

As reported by Reuters recently, the disorder currently affects an estimated 44 million people worldwide, but health care experts expect that number to more than triple to 135 million people by 2050. G8 leaders are now meeting to discuss the rapidly growing costs associated with the disease. Treatment costs already exceed more than $600 billion, or about 1.0% of global GDP. Costs the G8 likely won’t be talking about though are the growing legal expenses associated with trying to enforce or defend estate plans of dementia patients.

A diagnosis of dementia can cause significant legal problems. Even a hint of incapacity makes an estate plan vulnerable to court challenge, threatening the decedent’s intended distributions and forcing his or her family to go through stressful and often expensive litigation.

With dementia on the rise, it’s now more important than ever to make sure you have a clear and effective estate plan in place. If possible, you should put a final plan in place before capacity becomes an issue. If it’s too late for that though, there are still things you can do; just be sure to consult a litigation attorney as part of the planning process. Acting now could save you and your family a great deal of heartache (and money) down the road.