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Dementia and Family Finances: the Glass Half Empty and the Need for Planning Early / York, PA

MP900442402I’m a big believer that both spouses, or partners, of a couple be intimately familiar with their household’s finances and investments. But an eye-opening study about how older couples make money decisions when one has dementia offers powerful evidence for this view.

Dementia is an unfortunate and pernicious affliction. Unfortunately, it is one that will afflict the majority of households at some point. Because it is so real a possibility to face, it is one better faced sooner rather than later. Proper planning can reduce the inevitable stress on all concerned.

The issue of dementia in planning was recently addressed by MarketWatch in article titled “Stunning study on dementia, couples and money.” The results of the study mentioned are multifaceted. However, there is one obvious data point upon which the article rotates – the vast majority of households turn over financial control to the unimpaired spouse once the original leader of family finances shows signs of dementia. Unfortunately, dementia doesn’t work that way; it’s far too subtle. This means that many households may have waited too long, and then the unimpaired spouse is left to learn all of the finances and pick up any broken pieces from a spouse who may be unable to fully account for it all. That is a glass half empty, unfortunately.

So how do you fight against so subtle an affliction and a tide of impairment affecting (as far as we can tell) fully 22% of Americans over the age of 71? You plan early and spouses plan together. In fact, there is much to do and it is all about starting early. The original article, as it happens, also offers a helpful bit of wisdom with five practical tips.

Are you an adult child working to assist your aging parents? Then some of these tips are critical to share with your parents sooner rather than later.

For more information about dementia and family finances, please visit my estate planning website.

Reference: MarketWatch (June 2, 2014) “Stunning study on dementia, couples and money

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