After an Alzheimer's Diagnosis: Your Legal Planning Next Steps
What should planning for your future look like when a diagnosis of Alzheimer's dementia occurs?
Today, more than 6 million American's are living with Alzheimer's and that number is projected to reach 14 million by 2060. While Alzheimer's can affect people of all ages, after age 65, the risk of Alzheimer's doubles every five years.
Alzheimer's is a progressive brain disease, where dementia symptoms such as memory loss and problems carrying out daily activities gradually worsen over time. In its early stages, memory loss can be mild, but with late-stage Alzheimer's, individuals lose the ability to carry on a conversation and respond to their environment.
Due to the fact Alzheimer’s affects the brain and its ability to make cognitive decisions, it is important that dementia patients express their wishes regarding their care and finances while they are still able to make decisions for themselves.
The first steps in legal planning should include:
- A review of existing legal documents and making necessary updates
- Determining your agents, those who you choose to act on your behalf, and will enact your decisions on finances, property and carry out your health care wishes
- Putting strategic legal tools in place to fulfill your future health care and long-term care preferences
- Determining how long-term care will be paid for
Elder care and estate planning is a crucial step in ensuring that your wishes are met and followed as the disease progresses and will allow you to designate loved ones to make decisions when the time comes that you are no longer able to.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, properly executed elder care and estate plans for those living with Alzheimer’s will include a durable power of attorney, health care proxy, living will, last will and testament and oftentimes a trust.
- Durable Power of Attorney: a legal document that allows an individual (the principal) to grant power to another individual (agent) to make financial and other important decisions. This vital document must always be modified to include additional powers such as asset and income protection.
- Health Care Proxy: a legal document that allows an individual to appoint a trusted agent to make health care decisions and carry out their wishes once they are no longer able to.
- Living Will: a written statement that explains the individual's health care wishes about end-of-life care, and specific instructions about treatments that may not be desired.
- Last Will and Testament: defines when and how beneficiaries will inherit an individual's property or assets. A Will requires probate which should be avoided for a host of reasons.
- Trusts: a beneficial legal tool that can provide protection and legal transfer of the title of a property, such as a home, from the individual (the grantor), to be held by an appointed third party (trustee) and to be distributed to a beneficiary as per the stated wishes. In many cases, a trust is utilized to safeguard assets when applying for government benefits such as Medicaid.
It is advisable to speak with an elder law attorney whose practice area is concentrated on the issues specific to elders and those who require long-term care to assist in building a comprehensive and strategic estate plan that protects the individual's rights and assets, including the development of important legal documents.
At Tully Law Group, P.C. we understand that Alzheimer’s disease can be physically and emotionally demanding on both individuals and their loved ones. Our team of elder law attorneys and care coordinators are here to guide and support families through this process.
For more information about how to set up an estate plan or to schedule a free consultation, contact our Long Island elder law firm at (631) 424-2800 or visit our contact page.