Alzheimer’s is an unfortunate disease that is currently incurable and can often catch family members by surprise. Alzheimer’s affects an individual’s cognitive abilities and will eventually diminish that individual’s mental capacity to make certain decisions under the law. However, if someone is diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer’s, their loved ones can encourage review of estate planning documents before cognitive decline reaches a point where the ailing individual no longer has the mental capacity to make financial and medical decisions on their own.
Memory loss or behavioral changes associated with the first signs of dementia might trigger certain elder law issues if not planned for properly. Alzheimer’s is not preventable and often advances quickly, making early planning extremely important. Early planning can help to prevent asset loss, delayed medical procedures, lengthy guardianship proceedings, and other complications that can get in the way of providing the care that the ailing individual needs.
What should be included in the estate plan of an individual with early onset Alzheimer’s? Some of the first steps for Alzheimer’s legal planning involve documents that appoint another individual or party with control over financial and medical decisions. Choosing a trusted person (or persons) to exercise these powers should be done carefully. Of course, special elder care options should also be reviewed because not all in-home care providers or assisted living facilities offer Alzheimer’s care.
These important estate planning documents grant another person power over financial affairs and healthcare. There are some issues that arise with these documents that should be avoided. One such issue can occur when one person is named on a durable power of attorney and a different person is named on a health care power of attorney. If the person in charge of healthcare decisions cannot receive funds from the person managing financial matters, medical treatments might be compromised.
In Alzheimer’s legal planning, you should identify a trusted person in advance to make these decisions and make sure forms are completed properly and timely. If completion of these documents is delayed, the individual diagnosed with Alzheimer’s might lose legal capacity to execute the forms.
What happens to an individual’s care if no forms are present or they have invalid Powers of Attorney? A guardianship proceeding would typically be required, during which a court-appointed person becomes the guardian over the incompetent person’s (“ward’s”) affairs.
Alzheimer’s legal planning must take into account state and federal laws as well as public benefit programs such as Medicaid to forecast costs of care and cover the associated expenses. Our attorneys can review an individual’s assets and advise ways of titling assets, leveraging trusts, and using other tools to help protect assets and offset costs for Alzheimer’s care.
When families look for facilities that specialize in Alzheimer’s care they quickly learn how much more expensive this particular area of healthcare is compared to other forms of care. Patients and residents with memory loss require close monitoring, and this contributes to higher expenses. As of 2014, the average monthly cost for Alzheimer’s care in North Carolina was $4,342, according to A Place for Mom. Wake County provides a host of resources for Alzheimer's care and support and can be found in this directory: Resources for Seniors Directory
Remember that early planning is key to avoiding these major headaches of dealing and lets you maintain your focus of providing care for your loved ones. Contact Morgan & Perry Law, PLLC today for you Alzheimer’s legal planning needs.