Legal and Financial Planning for People with Alzheimer’s

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Many people are unprepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s disease. Legal and medical experts encourage people recently diagnosed with a serious illness to examine and update their financial and healthcare arrangements as soon as possible. Basic le- gal and financial documents, such as a will, a living trust, and advance directives, are needed to ensure that the person’s late-stage or end-of-life healthcare and financial decisions are carried out.

Families beginning the legal planning process should discuss several strategies and legal documents. Depending on the family situation and the applicable State laws, a lawyer may introduce some or all the following terms and documents to assist in this process:

• Documents that communicate the healthcare wishes of someone who can no longer make healthcare decisions
• Documents that communicate the financial management and estate plan wishes of someone who can no longer make financial decisions

Advance directives for financial and estate management must be created while the person with Alzheimer’s still can make these decisions (sometimes referred to as “having legal capacity” to make decisions). These directives may include the following:

A will indicates how a person’s assets and estate will be distributed upon death. It also can specify: • Arrangements for care of minors
• Gifts
• Trusts to manage the estate

• Funeral and/or burial arrangements

Medical and legal experts say that the newly diagnosed person with Alzheimer’s and his or her family should move quickly to make or update a will and secure the estate.

Healthcare providers cannot act as legal or financial advisers, but they can encourage planning discussions between patients and their families.

Start discussions early. The rate of decline differs for each person with Alzheimer’s disease, and his or her ability to be involved in planning will decline over time. Review plans regularly, and update documents as needed.