Alzheimer’s disease is a progressive condition, thus it is inevitable that the patient at some stage will not be able to manage his own financial affairs.
A time will be reached when the patient will not be able to write and sign cheques. He will not know his bank balance and will not be able to keep money on himself.
Some families cope with this by obtaining signing powers for the patient’s bank accounts. This is a dangerous practice. In most instances family members act in the interest of the patient but sometimes this practice may be open to abuse.
The best option for the appropriate management of financial affairs is to appoint a curator bonis. The curator bonis can then conduct financial transactions on the patient’s behalf. This is a court procedure and involves the help of a lawyer so it is more expensive.
The family members approach a lawyer and they inform the lawyer that the patient is unable to look after his own financial affairs. The lawyer then refers the patient to a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist does a complete clinical evaluation and then draws up a statement. In the statement the psychiatrist will state that the patient suffers from an illness that affects his judgement and insight, this illness is progressive, and the patient cannot look after his own financial affairs. The lawyer obtains a similar letter from a general practitioner. The two statements by the medical practitioners and a statement by a family member are then taken to court and the court appoints a curator. The curator can be a lawyer or sometimes a family member. Financial transactions that the curator undertakes are monitored to ensure that the patient’s best interests are maintained.
A curator can also be appointed to look after a patient’s legal affairs and this is called a curator ad litem. Sometimes a curator bonis and a curator ad litem are appointed at the same time. The curator ad litem assists the patient with court procedures.
Written by Dr Frans Hugo, MBChB, M.Med Psychiatry and Dr L. Van Wyk, MBChB, M. Med (Psych) from the Panorama Memory Clinic.
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For more information visit: Dementia SA: http://www.dementiasa.org/ or Alzheimer’s South Africa: http://www.alzheimers.org.za