Question: My husband has early dementia. What legal documents should we get done before my husband’s dementia gets worse?

Answer: I am glad you asked. There are so many people affected by memory loss right now; it’s heartbreaking. Generally, by the time people come to see me about a loved one with memory loss it’s past the time that the loved one can understand a legal document and therefore cannot sign one. Then we have to do a guardianship and a conservatorship through the Probate court.

Two of the most important documents for your husband to have are durable powers of attorney. The first one is for financial and legal matters and the second one is for medical treatment decisions. For the financial/legal durable power of attorney; your husband will give you the authority to make financial decisions for him and handle his financial matters.

For example, writing checks, paying bills, accessing his IRA or 401(k), etc. You will also have the authority to handle legal matters such as file a lawsuit for him or defend a lawsuit. For the medical durable power of attorney; your husband will give you the authority to make all of his medical treatment decisions including end-of-life decisions. For example, helping him with medical decisions, discussing his options with his doctor, deciding on medications, and even making quality of life decisions.

With the durable powers of attorney in place, it will alleviate the need for a guardian and conservator in most instances. I would advise you to see an attorney soon while your husband is still competent to understand and sign the documents. I would also advise you to not get the durable powers of attorney forms online or at the local office supply store. In this day and age, there is so much fraud going on that financial institutions are very hesitant to accept legal documents unless they are prepared by an attorney.

Michael B. Walling is an Elder Law attorney with an advance Master of Laws degree. He manages The Elder Law Center and the law firm of Michael B. Walling, PLC. Mr. Walling is also a part-time Professor at Western Michigan University. Please email any questions you would like addressed to: This column is intended for general information purposes only and should not be considered as legal advice to any particular person.