Practical legal tips following an early diagnosis of dementia - sponsored content

If you’ve just been diagnosed with dementia or are worried that you may be developing this condition, you will no doubt have a lot of emotions to process. Everyone will react differently, and everyone’s situation will be different.

There is a lot of information out there about support at this difficult time. Once you feel ready, you may like to consider the following practical tips on what you could do after diagnosis.

First things first, a lot of people take comfort in knowing that their affairs are in order, which will make it easier for them as the dementia progresses, but also for others (i.e. family members), in the future. Here are some suggestions of what you might like to do:

1. Look at your finances.

If you haven’t done so already, set up as many household bills and other regular payments on direct debit. You may want to consider whether you would like a trusted family member to be a signatory on your bank account. Finally, make sure all your important documents are together in a safe place and that a trusted person knows where to find them if needed in the future. It is also helpful to have details together of your assets such as bank accounts, savings accounts, investments, so that if trusted family members need to start helping you with your finances, they don’t have to trawl through drawers of papers.

2. If you don’t already have one, consider getting a Property & Finance Lasting Power of Attorney (LPA) drawn up.

This document, once registered, authorises your attorney(s) – i.e. those you specify in the LPA - to step into your shoes and look after your property and finances, if you are unable to do so in the future due to reduced mental capacity. It is an option to draft the document so that your attorney(s) can act on your behalf even whilst you have capacity, which can be helpful. You should always appoint attorneys, usually family members, that you trust, and not just those that you think you should ask to do it.

3. You may already have an Enduring Power of Attorney (EPA) which is the older style of the Property & Finance LPA.

It was quite common to have an EPA prepared when drafting a will so sometimes people don’t realise they already have one:

check with your solicitor if you do. If you have one it is worth reviewing it to see if you are still happy with the details - i.e. who you have named as attorneys - as they may have since passed away or you may like to change your mind.

Likewise, it is a good time to review your will for similar reasons. It is also worth bearing in mind that the EPA will need to be registered by your attorneys with the Office of the Public Guardian, once they consider that you have lost / are losing mental capacity, so make them aware of this.

4. If you are getting a Property & Finance LPA you may also want to consider a Health & Welfare LPA.

As the name suggests, this allows your attorney(s) to make decisions about your health and welfare on your behalf when you are unable to do so. This LPA can only be used when you lack mental capacity to make your own decisions about health. Again, it is important to have trusted attorneys: most people name the same people as in the Property & Finance LPA. Importantly this document allows you to give instructions and guidance to your attorneys about what you would like to happen to you in the future, although it is recommended to seek legal advice if you would like to add specific instructions to ensure the document is valid.

5. Another option from a health point of view is considering whether you would like to make an ‘advanced decision’ (sometimes known as a living will), which is your chance to specify what treatment you would like to refuse in the future in the event you aren’t able to communicate it yourself.

Drafted correctly, this is a legally binding document. You should act with caution though if you also have a Health & Welfare LPA. Some people also / instead like to write a more informal ‘advanced statement’ or ‘letter of wishes’, to give their family guidance on their wishes, feelings and beliefs to assist them in making decisions about their health in the event they can’t do it themselves.

6. As a final point on checking your affairs, look at whether you are receiving all the benefits you are eligible for, and what you may be able to receive in the future; you may be eligible for attendance allowance or carers allowance, for example.

Also, when you start requiring day-to-day help, you can ask your local service services for a free assessment to see if you can receive help at home, equipment or referral to day centres etc.

This is of course not an exhaustive list and is purely looking at the practical / legal side of sorting out your affairs early on.

Law firm Coffin Mew has a dedicated and experienced Court of Protection team, which can assist with LPAs, applications to the Court of Protection and deputyship matters.

For more information CLICK HERE or contact the author Amy Chater, Solicitor – Vulnerable People and Court of Protection – at the firm, on 01235 355902 or via