Summary

  • Early planning may allow a person with dementia to be involved in decisions about their medical treatment or financial future.
  • Enduring powers of attorney are legal arrangements that allow another person to look after a person’s finances or medical treatment.
  • A will is only legal if the person making it understands its implications.
  • In most states and territories, there is a Guardianship Board or Tribunal that can appoint a guardian or administrator for a person who is no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
Dementia affects people differently. One person may begin to lose the ability to handle money matters or make competent business decisions at an early stage, while another person may keep these skills much longer. Eventually, the abilities of the person with dementia will decline and they will be unable to make their own decisions about financial and legal matters.

Planning ahead for dementia care


Planning ahead can make it easier for families and carers to manage the affairs of the person with dementia. It may also mean that the person with dementia can participate in the planning and make sure that their wishes are carried out in the way that they would like.

Where possible, get advice while the person with dementia can still participate in the discussion and is legally competent to sign any documents.

Decisions about medical treatment for dementia


If a person with dementia loses the legal capacity to make decisions about their medical treatment, someone else needs to make those decisions for them. In most states and territories, a person can appoint a person they trust to make these decisions. If a person has not planned ahead, the law in every state and territory allows a particular court to appoint someone to make these decisions.

The two types of tools available to help you plan ahead for decisions about medical treatment include:
  • an enduring power of attorney covering health matters – this allows a person with dementia to appoint another person to be their substitute to make decisions about medical treatment
  • an advance directive – a document that expresses a person’s wishes about medical treatment.

The documents might have different names in some states and territories, but the function of the document is much the same.

Planning ahead for medical treatment


Things you can do to plan ahead include:
  • making sure the person with dementia has the opportunity to complete an enduring power of attorney covering health matters or an advance directive
  • having a copy of the document and knowing where it is kept.

Getting help with decisions about medical treatment


People or organisations that can help you with making decisions about medical treatment include:
  • a solicitor
  • the Law Institute, Law Society or Legal Aid
  • the Public Advocate or Public Guardian
  • Alzheimer’s Australia.

Money matters and dementia


If a bank account is in joint names, the partner of the person with dementia can continue to operate it without any change in arrangements. Problems can occur if the person with dementia uses the account inappropriately or has accounts, credit cards or other arrangements in their name only.

To avoid these difficulties, the person with dementia can give authority, while they are legally competent, for another person to operate the account. It is important to remember that this authority will become invalid when the person is no longer legally competent. If they are unwilling to agree to a change of arrangement, it may be helpful to consult the bank manager about a possible solution.

Planning ahead for money matters


Things you can do to plan ahead include:
  • having joint financial accounts
  • discussing financial affairs with a financial adviser
  • arranging how and when the person with dementia will access their finances.

Getting help with money matters


People or organisations that can help you plan for money matters include:
  • a bank manager
  • an accredited financial adviser
  • a solicitor
  • Alzheimer’s Australia.

Enduring power of attorney and dementia


In most states and territories, a person can sign a document called an enduring power of attorney if they are legally competent at the time of signing. An enduring power of attorney is a legal arrangement that enables a nominated person to look after another person’s financial affairs if they become unable to do so themselves. Many people have enduring powers of attorney, regardless of any illness or diagnosis.

An ordinary or general power of attorney is also available, but is only valid while the person is legally competent. An enduring power of attorney is different because it remains valid even if the person becomes unable to manage their own affairs. An enduring power of attorney continues until the person’s death, unless revoked. This is why enduring powers of attorney are more useful for people with dementia.

One of the benefits of having an enduring power of attorney is that it allows the person with dementia to choose someone to act on their behalf in legal and financial matters, when they are no longer able to do so themselves.

Planning ahead for an enduring power of attorney


Things you can do to plan ahead include:
  • making sure that the person with dementia has the opportunity to consider making an enduring power of attorney (if they don’t already have one) as soon as possible after diagnosis and while they still have the capacity to do so
  • making sure that family and carers also have their own enduring powers of attorney so that their affairs are well managed if they also become incapable
  • having a copy of the enduring power of attorney and knowing where it is kept.

Getting help with an enduring power of attorney


People or organisations that can help you with an enduring power of attorney include:
  • a solicitor
  • the Law Institute, Law Society or Legal Aid
  • the Public Advocate or Public Guardian
  • Alzheimer’s Australia.

Wills and dementia


A will gives instructions as to how the estate of a deceased person should be distributed. A will is only legal if the person making it understands its implications. It is essential that, if the person with dementia makes or updates their will, they do so while they are still competent to sign.

Planning ahead for a will


Things you can do to plan ahead include:
  • having an up-to-date will
  • knowing who the executor is
  • knowing where the will is kept.

Getting help with a will


People or organisations that can help you with wills include:
  • a solicitor
  • the Law Institute, Law Society or Legal Aid
  • Alzheimer’s Australia.

Guardianship and administration and dementia


In most states and territories, there is a Guardianship Board or Tribunal that can appoint a guardian or administrator for a person who is no longer able to make decisions for themselves. If there are problems dealing with the affairs of the person with dementia, or if there is conflict in the family about the person’s best interests, an application for the appointment of a guardian or an administrator may need to be considered.

Alzheimer’s Australia can be contacted to discuss whether an application to appoint a guardian or administrator may be needed and how to go about it.

Where to get help

  • Your doctor
  • Your solicitor
  • Community Legal Centres
  • The Law Institute or Society or Legal Aid in your state
  • The Public Advocate or Public Guardian in your state
  • National Dementia Helpline – Alzheimer’s Australia Tel. 1800 100 500
  • Centrelink – People with disability Tel. 132 717

Things to remember

  • Early planning may allow a person with dementia to be involved in decisions about their medical treatment or financial future.
  • Enduring powers of attorney are legal arrangements that allow another person to look after a person’s finances or medical treatment.
  • A will is only legal if the person making it understands its implications.
  • In most states and territories, there is a Guardianship Board or Tribunal that can appoint a guardian or administrator for a person who is no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
References
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Financial), 2009, The Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria. More information here.
  • Enduring Power of Attorney (Medical Treatment), 2009, The Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria. More information here.
  • Enduring Power of Guardianship, 2009, The Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria. More information here.
  • Guardianship, 2009, The Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria. More information here.
  • Administration, 2009, The Office of the Public Advocate, Victoria. More information here.
  • Guide to appoint an Administrator, Guardian or to make orders regarding Enduring Powers of Attorney/Guardianship, Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. More information here. More information here.
  • Wills and estates, Victoria Legal Aid. More information here.

More information

Dementia

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This page has been produced in consultation with and approved by: Alzheimer's Australia Victoria

Last updated: May 2014

Content on this website is provided for education and information purposes only. Information about a therapy, service, product or treatment does not imply endorsement and is not intended to replace advice from your doctor or other registered health professional. Content has been prepared for Victorian residents and wider Australian audiences, and was accurate at the time of publication. Readers should note that, over time, currency and completeness of the information may change. All users are urged to always seek advice from a registered health care professional for diagnosis and answers to their medical questions.