“Dementia is the plague of our time, the disease of the century” (Unattributed)
Dementia is a widespread medical condition that affects people of all ages but particularly the elderly, and includes conditions like Alzheimer’s. One of the most significant challenges of dementia is the loss of mental capacity, making it difficult for individuals to make crucial decisions, including those related to their legal affairs, finances and care. This can be particularly problematic when family members are unprepared or unaware of the practical and legal implications.
One common misconception is that a signed Power of Attorney (PoA) can authorise a family member to take control of the individual’s financial affairs in perpetuity. In fact, a PoA is only valid as long as the person who granted it maintains “legal capacity”, in other words an understanding of its implications. If and when dementia kicks in, the PoA automatically becomes invalid.
Enduring Powers of Attorney, which continue even after someone loses legal capacity, are valid in some countries but are unfortunately not yet recognised in South Africa.
You will typically have three legal options available –
Understanding the available legal avenues can help you navigate this difficult journey, and with proper planning, personalised legal advice and early action, you can ensure that your family member’s legal and financial well-being is protected at all times.
Contact our Family Law Department should you require any advice or assistance.
Disclaimer: The information provided herein should not be used or relied on as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your professional adviser for specific and detailed advice.