Most of us are familiar with the outward symptoms of Parkinson’s; a neurodegenerative disorder that affects the brain and nervous system. These include unintended or uncontrollable movements such as shaking, stiffness and difficulty with balance and coordination. Internally, Parkinson’s can affect a person’s cognitive abilities, making it more challenging to make important decisions and express yourself with intention. Mental capacity and physical ability to sign are two basic testamentary requirements for producing a legally valid Will.
Here are some thoughts on why you should prioritise your Will, what other documents you should consider and how to prevent Parkinson’s from getting in the way of your estate planning prowess.
Write a Legal Will
You’re already onto it, but this message is one that bears repeating. Especially if you or someone you love is living with Parkinson’s, writing a legal Will should be a priority (as goes for everyone!). Your Will and any estate planning documents should be modified and tailored to reflect your current circumstances and likely course of the illness.
Since Parkinson’s is a progressive condition, it may become more difficult to communicate your wishes effectively as the condition worsens. This is a vital element of producing a Will that preserves your legacy, and so it’s best to start your estate planning processes as soon as possible after a diagnosis. This will give you the best chance of having the capacity to make informed decisions that your loved ones can be confident in honouring.
Consider a Living Will
A Living Will, or Advanced Care Directive, empowers you to outline your preferences for medical care and how you envision sustaining your quality of life. This legal document is valuable if there is a risk your condition may hinder your ability to communicate your wants and desires later down the track. It may also help loved-ones with potentially heart-wrenching decisions they may be faced with. Your Living Will is where you may even choose to disclose wishes to donate brain tissue samples for Parkinson’s disease research efforts.
Choose the Right Executor
It’s important to choose an executor who you trust to handle your affairs as this is the person responsible for managing your estate and seeing through your final wishes after you pass. Ideally, the executor you select should be aware of your specific needs and requests in the context of your illness.
Make an Enduring Power of Attorney
Making an Enduring Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone to make financial, legal and personal decisions on your behalf if you become unable to do so. You can limit the power to cover only specific matters, and set other parameters around the use of the enduring – or continuous – power. Enduring powers of attorney should take into account the characteristics of Parkinson’s disease, and can be important for sufferers who may experience cognitive decline or other challenges that impact decision-making abilities.
Address Issues with Motor Skills
There are a number of common Parkinson’s symptoms which can impact a person’s ability to sign their name. This may be because of tremors and variances in control which make handwriting difficult to read or illegible, or slowness of movement which impedes the act of signing with others present. It’s important to be aware of any potential motor skill deficiencies so that steps can be taken to ensure your Will is properly signed and witnessed. Depending on the laws of your state or territory, this may involve enlisting the help of a witness, using electronic signatures or simply scheduling extra time for signing meetings.
Leave a Bequest to a Charity Close to Your Heart
If your life has been impacted by Parkinson’s disease in some way, you may wish to leave a legacy in the form of a bequest to a Parkinson’s charity or foundation. We’ve made it really easy to leave a bequest to Fight Parkinson’s in just a couple of clicks. You can start here.
A provision for a donation in your Will can take the form of a percentage of your estate, a specific sum of money or a particular asset. Discussing your wishes with your chosen charitable organisation in advance can also bring assurance that your gift will be used in a way that aligns with your values and hope for others.
Estate planning is an important part of life (and death) for everyone, no matter the battles you’re facing. Ensure your wishes are carried out on your terms by writing a Will online today.