May is Mental Health Awareness Month. This month provides ample opportunity for us all to slow down and do a self-check of our own mental health as well as the mental health of those around us.
In the estate planning realm, mental health can play an important role in a variety of ways. We pride ourselves on being aware and considerate of these factors and want to help all Californians in navigating potential planning challenges.
Everyone is Worthy of an Estate Plan
We want to be very clear on this: you are worthy of an estate plan. Our team is often advocating for estate planning in different groups, regardless of age, gender, or family status. This also applies to everyone regardless of any mental health struggles they may be having.
You deserve a plan that caters to your wants and needs for your own future and for the future of your loved ones. Crafting an estate plan can bring peace of mind in a hectic world.
Mental Capacity Matters
With that said, there are certain decisions within an estate plan that must be made by someone who is considered to have sufficient mental capacity to do so. For instance, a person who has suffered severe cognitive decline will likely be unable to serve as an executor of an estate plan. However, someone who suffers from depression or severe anxiety can still serve in the role as long as the courts do not deem that these illnesses hinder their ability to act as fiduciary to the estate.
The same applies at a time when you are making changes to your estate plan. Someone who is contesting an estate plan may attempt to discredit such changes by saying you weren’t of sound mind at the time you made those changes. In this situation, they may say you either suffered from cognitive impairment or that you were severely depressed and made changes without being able to consider the impact of those changes. Working with a mental health professional to verify your mental viability could protect your estate from such challenges.
Power of Attorney Designations
If you are working to put together your own plan and have concerns about your long-term mental capacity, you are even more likely to benefit from Financial and Medical Power of Attorney designations. This provides another individual or individuals the ability to make certain decisions on your behalf when you are otherwise unable to do so yourself.
While many people believe incapacity is required for a Power of Attorney to act, you can actually allow them to make decisions even if you are completely conscious and aware. These individuals are permitted to make decisions for you whenever you believe is necessary.
Mental Health of Your Beneficiaries
We must also consider the mental health and capacity of your chosen beneficiaries. The law will only pass assets down to someone who can legally manage those assets on their own.
If you designate beneficiaries who have severe mental health issues, both parties would be best served to have a contingency plan in place. This protects yourself, your estate, the assets, and your beneficiaries in cases where they are found to be legally unable to manage their own assets in their current state. Placing the assets in a trust may be your best option in these cases.
Work with an Estate Planning Attorney
At Solan, Park & Robello, we care for your future which means caring for who you are today. It’s okay to not be okay, and we want to help take some of the stress of life off your shoulders. Our team can craft a thorough estate plan with you that provides a roadmap for what you want your future and your loved ones’ futures’ to look like. Contact our team today and get the consideration you deserve.
Solan, Park & Robello
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