Adult daughter embraces her senior father

Ask the Attorney: My Dad Has Dementia, but His Name Is Still on the Property Deed. How Can I Transfer the Deed Over to Me?

As parents get older, they face several challenges, including declining health. You not only have to deal with the emotional aspects of these changes but also the additional struggles that come with it, like planning for the future.

Dementia is one of the hardest health issues to deal with, both for the person experiencing it and for their loved ones. When a person suffers from dementia, it can be difficult to think about the future and create an estate plan. However, estate planning is necessary to protect your loved one and effectively handle their estate.

If your parent has dementia and you need to transfer property, there are several details to consider. Even if you are estate planning with dementia, it is possible to transfer property in your name, but the way to do it depends on the specifics of your situation. 

Whether There Is an Estate Plan in Place

First and foremost, you must consider whether your parent with dementia has an estate plan. If so, there may be provisions in their estate plan for dealing with issues like this, including a power of attorney.

If you’re aware that an estate plan exists, have an estate planning attorney review it. Depending on the documents contained in the estate plan, a lawyer can provide proper guidance to transfer your loved one’s property into your name. 

When There Isn’t an Estate Plan

If your parent with dementia didn’t prepare an estate plan before their diagnosis, you’ll need to take additional steps to proceed with transferring the property. It can be difficult to determine what to do, but an estate planning attorney can provide personalized guidance and support throughout the process. 

Get a Medical Evaluation

There are varying levels of severity when it comes to dementia. Did your parent just receive a diagnosis, or has the disease progressed?

Have a neurologist or psychiatrist evaluate your loved one. Deciding how serious their mental status is can help determine whether they are legally competent to sign legal documents.

Take Legal Action

Estate planning with dementia requires taking some legal action. The best course of action depends on your loved one’s mental health and competence. 

An estate planning attorney may decide to create a power of attorney or establish a conservatorship based on the medical evaluation. There are significant differences between the two, which your lawyer can discuss in depth.

Power of Attorney vs. Conservatorship

Both a power of attorney and conservatorship allow you to take the reins when your parent is no longer able to handle their affairs.

A power of attorney is a legal document that gives a chosen agent authority over certain matters, including healthcare, financial, and legal affairs. There are many kinds of powers of attorney, but a durable power of attorney would likely be best in this situation. A durable power of attorney becomes active the moment it is signed.

Your parent must be deemed competent enough to sign legal documents before creating a power of attorney. This is quick and doesn’t require going to court.

Establishing a conservatorship is different, as it is necessary to go to court. A conservatorship involves the court process of becoming appointed a conservator for your loved one. Conservatorships often begin after a person is no longer capable or competent enough to take care of themselves. 

Once you’re an agent under a power of attorney or a conservator and are given the proper legal authority, you can continue with transferring the deed into your name. 

Seek Legal Assistance From an Experienced Estate Planning Attorney

Handling estate planning with dementia can be particularly difficult. Fortunately, you don’t have to do it alone.

A skilled Orange County estate planning attorney at OC Wills and Trusts can assist you with all of your estate planning needs. Contact our office today to schedule a consultation.

Brian Chew, the managing partner of OC Wills & Trust Attorneys, has extensive experience in the areas of estate planning, asset protection planning, business succession planning, long-term care planning, and veterans’ benefits. By devoting his practice to estate planning matters, he has founded a firm that strives to provide exceptional service to their clients by working closely with individuals and their families to create comprehensive and customized estate plans. For the past twenty five years, Brian has served thousands of clients in the matters of estate planning, wills and trusts. If you have any questions about this article, you can reach Brian Chew here.