Experiencing something personally, in real time, is very different than reading about it, talking about it or observing it.

I use as an example my father, who died in August.

He was an extremely intelligent man with a master’s degree in engineering and an M.B.A. from the Kellogg business school at Northwestern University. His engineer training made his preparations for just about everything very thorough.

When the early signs of his dementia arose, he was quick to get the usual recommended documents updated.

I have read about the progression of dementia. I have talked about it and I have observed it in other families. My purpose here is to emphasize that living through it is a whole other ball game.

Our plan worked, and from the outside it worked very well. Dad was active for the first couple of years. During the last few months, he had a couple of minor slips but never had an injury of real substance and he never injured anyone else. Other than his last five days, he stayed at home.

Financially, the elderly, particularly those with cognitive issues, are very vulnerable. They can make poor decisions and they are targets of fraudsters and scam artists. Dad spent money on things he didn’t need and there were plenty of attempts to scam him, but the financial damage he endured was minimal.

These good outcomes were the result of good planning, good execution of the plan and some safeguards we used. At the core of this success were the estate planning documents, particularly the power of attorney and a trust. My parents are not well-to-do and have no tax issues to worry about. Their story illustrates how estate planning is about much more than taxes.

As Dad’s faculties declined, my mother used the power of attorney to get the bank to tighten things up. My father was responding to offers of new credit card accounts, personal loans and home equity loans. She got the bank to stop that.

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