Alzheimer’s diagnoses are becoming more common. In fact, there are more than six million Americans living with the disease today, and that number is expected to double by 2050.
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be devastating for people living with the disease, their spouses, family members, and loved ones. Chances are, those who have been diagnosed are already dealing with the daily struggles that the condition presents.
As if that isn’t hard enough, people living with Alzheimer’s may fear not only for their own future, but for the future of their loved ones and family members as well. After all, this disease can wreak havoc on one’s health and finances.
How sound estate planning may be able to help
Although there’s no cure for Alzheimer’s right now, there may be some steps that you or your loved one can take to put some fears related to the condition to rest.
When it comes to estate planning, each of the following should be considered:
Power of attorney
As Alzheimer’s progresses, the affected individual may wind up in a position where he or she is unable to make decisions for himself or herself.
By creating a power of attorney, you or your loved one can rest assured that important financial decisions are left in the hands of a trusted individual in the event that incapacity becomes a reality.
The same holds true for important medical decisions. You or your loved one will want to make sure that someone trusted is making those decisions in the event that the person living with Alzheimer’s is unable to make those decisions independently. Again, the person left with the power to make these decisions should fully understand the affected individual’s wishes for his or her care.
Wills and trusts
Creating these documents may seem simple enough, but when Alzheimer’s is involved, it’s imperative that these documents are created early and that they’re create with the appropriate mental capacity.
This can be a tricky issue to navigate if the disease is already advanced, but periods of lucidity may be sufficient to create a legally valid will or trust. So, discuss this issue with your attorney to learn more.
A lot of Alzheimer’s sufferers need long-term care. This can quickly eat into an estate’s assets and leave you or your loved one struggling to secure needed care.
There are ways to protect estate assets and secure long-term care, though. This is usually best accomplished through Medicaid planning. This process includes reducing income and assets to meet eligibility requirements, which may take some skillful estate planning.
Open and honest communication
Talking to loved ones about the situation and what you or your loved one expects from the future can go a long way. This can reduce familial tensions, minimize the risk of future fights over estate assets, and ensure that you or your loved one is adequately cared for moving forward.
Taking a customized approach
There is no one-size-fits-all estate plan, and this certainly applies to those living with Alzheimer’s. It is important to discuss your options with an experienced estate planning lawyer who can detail customized estate planning options for you and your family.
Many factors can influence how an estate plan is created or modified for someone living with Alzheimer’s:
- Whether a current estate plan exists
- Whether the estate plan is up-to-date
- Financial situation and assets
- The stage of Alzheimer’s disease
- The individual’s physical and medical needs
- Whether there is a caregiver, and that individual’s ability to provide care long-term
- Whether the individual has legal capacity
These are just a few of many considerations that should be made when creating or modifying an estate plan after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
One unique consideration that affects estate planning for those with Alzheimer’s and dementia is that of legal capacity. Depending on how far progressed the disease is, the individual may or may not have legal capacity. That is, the individual may or may not understand the importance and implications of specific legal documents.
If the individual has legal capacity, it is important that they are involved in the process. If the individual lacks legal capacity, the power of attorney will work with the estate planning attorney to make important estate planning decisions.
You’ve got enough to deal with, let a law firm like ours help
There’s a lot to deal with when hit with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As a result, estate planning can seem pretty minor, therefore falling low on the list of priorities. But we can’t stress enough the importance of having a sound estate plan on your or your loved one’s side.
Don’t be daunted by the process or by the fact that it’s just another thing that you need to do. Let our attorneys help you. Hopefully then you, your loved one and your family members can obtain peace of mind and return your focus to the things that matter most to you.