Special Planning Considerations for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

If you receive an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, planning for the future must begin as soon as possible. Preparing for incapacity must be done while you still have legal capacity: the ability to express your own wishes and understand the implications of documents that are created to enforce…

Special Planning Considerations for Alzheimer’s and Dementia

Throughout my career, I’ve worked with many families living with and impacted by Dementia.  Recently there has been an effort to identify signs of cognitive decline earlier, so the individual can receive support and care.  Another benefit of early diagnosis is that it allows the person living with Dementia to plan for their own future.

Preparing for incapacity must be done while you still have legal capacity: the ability to express your own wishes and understand the implications of documents that are created to enforce and protect them. Once you become incapacitated, you may not sign legal documents. In the absence of proper incapacity legal planning in advance, a court process will then be required to appoint financial and health care decision-makers for you. This process can be lengthy and expensive. It also will expose your private personal, health and financial circumstances to the public record.

What Documents are Needed for a Person Living With Dementia?

Through a durable financial power of attorney (POA) you can appoint a trusted individual as your Agent to manage your financial and legal matters. Work with an experienced Elder Law Attorney who will help you customize your Power of Attorney to grant your Agent the powers needed to conduct all and any financial and legal matters on your behalf, including qualifying for Medicaid if needed. A complete list of all assets, including bank accounts, pension and retirement plans, investment accounts, real property and digital assets should be created and provided to the agent appointed under your POA.

If you have executed a last will and testament, then it should be reviewed without delay. Make sure that it still reflects your wishes, especially when it comes to the executor you have appointed and to the distributions you want made to your beneficiaries. If you have any minor children, you should also make sure that the guardians you have nominated are still willing to serve.

What Healthcare-Focused Documents Should Be Prepared?

While executing your Financial POA, remember to name an Agent or Proxy to act on your behalf under a Power of Attorney for Healthcare.  The individual you appoint as your Agent will be authorized to make health care decisions and consent to care if you are incapacitated.   Sometimes the same individual is appointed to serve as Agent for financial and health care decisions. However, this is not always the case. Each situation is different. You know the strengths (and weaknesses) of the pool of candidates for these important roles.

A Living Will, also known as an advance health care directive, documents your wishes when it comes to end-of-life care. It must address some hard questions concerning medical treatment: do you want your life extended through any artificial means? Would you want to donate your brain or other organs for scientific research?  A Living Will gives your Healthcare Proxy written direction regarding your care wishes, and can give them peace of mind, especially if there is disagreement among family members regarding your care.

An experienced Elder Law Attorney will also create a General HIPAA release form, so doctors and attorneys may speak with your financial and health care agents, family members and caregivers as issues arise. In addition, those you authorize will also be able to obtain access to your medical records. This access is essential and is very practical for uses ranging from obtaining second opinions to pursuing potential malpractice claims. The HIPPA release form is also needed to interface with the health insurance provider. The right to speak with medical providers based on being a spouse or descendent should not be assumed.

Trusts are Commonly Used to Manage Assets for Incapacity Planning

You can create a fully-funded revocable living trust to address the management of your assets while you are living and to distribute your assets postmortem according to your instructions. As long as you have capacity, you are in charge as the original trust and beneficiary. You can even make any changes you desire. Upon your incapacity, the trust becomes irrevocable and continues to provide for you. Only upon your death does your trust become irrevocable, since it carries out your distribution instructions. The successor trustee you appoint can be the same person appointed as the agent under your POA, the executor under your last will and even your health care agent.  Trusts have the added advantage of being more easily accepted by banks and other financial institutions.

Planning for Final Arrangements

It is wise to discuss whether you want to be buried or cremated. You should also provide guidance regarding what, if any, kind of funeral service you would like and any other related arrangements. The more decisions you can make now, the fewer your loved ones will need to decide later on when grieving your loss.

Incapacity Planning for Alzheimer’s or Dementia

Planning for incapacity can be part of the process of coming to terms with an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, both for you and your loved ones. Discussing your wishes in advance helps keep you in control of the process, since your wishes are expressed and documented. You and your loved ones will be empowered to move forward with a plan in place.

Find Us Online

If you want to learn more about Elder Law and Estate Planning topics, contact our office today or check out our website and blog articles.  Planning in case of incapacity is an important step for everyone.

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