Rock-n-rollers across the world were not rocking or rolling so much as reeling from the news that guitarist Malcolm Young of the legendary band AC/DC (pronounced ‘Acca Dacca’ if you live Down Under. No, really.) Is suffering from dementia and will be stepping aside from his role in the group. (Admit it, you thought it was going to be a member of the Rolling Stones, right?) Young’s family released a short statement asking for privacy and confirming that the musician has dementia.
Dementia is actually not a disease itself. It refers to a broad range of symptoms that includes memory loss, impaired speech or judgment and the inability to independently perform daily activities. Alzheimer’s disease is an example of a progressive form of dementia, but many people suffer from a range of dementia symptoms without an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
Guitarist Young is a young 61 years old, relatively early to display signs of dementia. As a person of presumably considerable net worth, we would hope that Mr. Young has a full estate plan in place, including the appropriate Powers of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directives (as we call living wills in California). If these documents are in place already, Mr. Young’s agents can exercise their powers to manage financial and medical matters for him as needed. If you are of sound mind (not yet in Mr. Young’s situation), these documents are important documents to complete and have in an easily accessible location. It is in unexpected situations that a complete estate plan becomes your voice when you are in no position to have a voice of your own.
Powers of Attorney for financial matters should be durable, meaning that they are effective even when you are incapacitated. Advanced Healthcare Directives are common in California and doctors and medical institutions are very familiar with them. However, if you are having trouble getting a financial or medical institution to accept you as the agent for your friend/family/band mate, ask the attorney who helped you draft the documents to contact the company on your behalf. This is more likely to happen with a financial institution. (I’m guessing you’re well and truly surprised. After all, banks are so dearly loved.)
The inquisitive amongst you may ask, what happens if my guitarist/drummer/lead singer has neither a Power of Attorney nor an Advanced Healthcare Directive? First, find her/his attorney and indignantly ask, “Why not??” Second, find an (different) attorney to help you with a conservatorship.
A conservatorship asks the court to put a conservator in charge of the conservatee’s person or estate or both. The process to be appointed a conservator is complex and requires medical declarations. The conservatee can contest the process, as can any first or second-degree relative of the conservatee. (First or second degree relatives include spouses, siblings, children and grandchildren.) A contested conservatorship is an expensive and lengthy process and best avoided. You might even say the process can leave you (as the proposed conservator) ‘thunderstruck.’ All of this can be avoided with a durable Power of Attorney and an Advanced Healthcare Directive.
So before you start rocking, rolling and shaking all night long, complete your durable Power of Attorney and Advanced Healthcare Directive. We will salute you for your prudence.