In a perfect world, estate plans would be in order long before any adult receives a dementia or Alzheimer’s diagnosis. However, if you or your parent was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, estate planning is critical.
Alzheimer’s & Your Estate: Planning For Legal Matters
Waiting too long to create your estate plans, which include advanced medical directives and long-term care plans, puts you and your family in an unfortunate position. Firstly, as Alzheimer’s progresses, it becomes increasingly impossible to make decisions for yourself. Secondly, leaving care plans, decisions around home care vs. assisted living, or financial and legal arrangements to your extended family members puts them in stressful – and often conflicted – positions.
5 Steps for Alzheimer’s And Estate Planning
By planning for the future, you have a say in your long-term plans and can adjust any exciting financial, will, or trust plans in lieu of your diagnosis. If you haven’t yet created long-term healthcare or estate plans, now is the time.
These processes usually fall into three main categories:
- Preparing for long-term care and health care needs.
- Making arrangements for finances and property.
- Naming another person (or persons) to make decisions on your behalf when you can no longer do so.
Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease. During the first phase, you’ll be more than capable of making your wishes known and planning for the future. If you wait too long, you force loved ones to make those decisions for you and to resolve any unclear estate issues that send estate plans to probate.
If you’ve recently been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, here are some initial steps to begin estate planning.
Schedule a consultation with an estate planning attorney
Like other chronic or long-term diagnoses, Alzheimer’s requires a long-term care plan that evolves with client and caregiver needs. Financial planning for Alzheimer’s can be complicated.
Scheduling a consultation with an estate planning attorney is an excellent way to start the process. There, you’ll receive “homework” in the form of questions and documents pertaining to:
- Current will/trusts requiring updating or revision.
- Advanced medical and healthcare directives, including short- and long-term planning wishes.
- Your savings, retirement, investments, insurance policies, and other resources to fund long-term Alzheimer’s care.
- Start the estate planning process if you haven’t done so yet.
Once you return from your first appointment, you’ll have clear steps for moving forward. Depending on your situation, we may refer you to meet with a fee-based financial planner to help you along the way. Read How to Prepare… to give you an idea of how to start.
Financing long-term healthcare plans
Adults with Alzheimer’s require increasing levels of care to keep them safe, socially engaged, well-nourished, etc. It’s important to look ahead and determine what type of care you’re interested in:
- Home care (aging in place and dying at home)
- Homecare that transitions to assisted living down the way.
- Independent living communities with graduated memory care.
When you know your care preferences, we can begin looking ahead to future costs and how they’ll be funded.
Aging in place at home with both spouse and family caregivers is the increasingly preferred option, but we encourage partnering with a local home care agency to ensure spouse and family caregivers have adequate respite care. Also, in the advanced stages of Alzheimer’s, full-time supervision and care are essential to keep loved ones safe. All of this requires a sound financial plan that is outlined via your estate plans.
Identify your DPOA and backup(s)
Estate planning for individuals with Alzheimer’s is similar to planning for incapacity; at some point, you’ll be unable to make decisions for yourself. This means you must choose who will make the decisions for you – on all fronts. We refer to this role as a durable power of attorney (DPOA).
There is no need to assign one person to this task, although you may. Spouses are the automatic DPOA in most situations, but not always. And, there is no need to automatically assign the eldest child or even a family member. Choose a DPOA who you believe can 100% carry out your wishes on a few different fronts and who has agreed to the job.
- A healthcare proxy (medical POA) makes healthcare decisions.
- POAs can sign legal and financial documents on your behalf, as well as make decisions in these areas.
- Trustee or executor. Your estate plan trustee or executor takes over after you die. It’s their job to execute your estate plans after you’ve died in accordance with state laws and timelines.
Each of these roles carries tremendous responsibility, so make sure the people you designate clearly understand what the job entails and that they are willing. We recommend selecting backups as well. Life can change fairly quickly, so someone who says “Yes” today may not be able to honor that agreement two, five, or ten years down the road.
Finalize end-of-life and after-death plans
This is a good time to review your end-of-life plans.
For example -do you want to die at home on hospice, or would you prefer to be in a hospital? Who do you want to be there when you die? Would you be interested in death doula services? Are there rituals you’d like observed during and just after your death? What would you like to happen to your body after you die? Would you like a traditional funeral or memorial – or would you prefer a celebration of life?
These and other questions/answers are helpful additions to any estate plan, providing careful instructions when the people you love can use them the most.
Plan for how assets should be distributed when you die
Finally, estate plans integrate wills or trusts that inform loved ones how your properties and assets should be divided after you die. These decisions can take a great deal of time, so the sooner the better, as estate planning only becomes more complicated the longer you have dementia.
- Creating a will or trust.
- Tax considerations now and into the future.
- Any charities you’d like to consider.
- Additional considerations such as special needs children, pets, or bequeaths that extend beyond the immediate family and friend circle.
- And more
Tseng Law Firm Simplifies Estate Planning With Alzheimer’s
The Tseng Law Firm team provides a safe and sensitive space for you and your loved ones to discuss all aspects of estate planning with Alzheimer’s. Contact us to schedule a free, 30-minute consultation to learn more about how we can help you secure your best interests – and your family’s – now and for years to come.