Having a parent, grandparent, or close friend that is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia can seem overwhelming. However, if you begin planning for their future early, many of the difficulties associated with the disease can be avoided. In addition, the sooner planning begins, the more the person affected can participate.
The Importance of Legal Planning
Early legal and financial planning for your loved one helps to keep costs (and stress) at a minimum going forward. It also allows the person with dementia to express their own wishes for future care, as well as be involved in choosing decision makers on their behalf. Legal and financial issues for long-term care can also be addressed. An experienced Elder Law attorney can also help the person with dementia qualify for MediCal, which can save thousands and thousands of dollars in long term care costs. In the Elder Law field, this is known as MediCal planning.
Legal Issues to Address:
- Planning for Long-term care and health care
- Planning for finances and property
- Designating someone to make decisions for the person with dementia
Before speaking with an Elder Law attorney, determine if the person with dementia has the legal capacity to sign documents. If there is any question as to whether or not they can, consult with a medical doctor. A doctor can help determine their capacity, and provide written proof of their mental capacity. Many elder law attorneys will require such a document before having them sign anything.
In addition, locate any living wills, powers of attorney, or trust documents that were signed prior to the diagnosis. If you cannot find a record of these documents, or none were completed, consult with your attorney on the next steps. It is possible that an estate plan can be made, but in some cases a Conservatorship may be necessary first.
What to discuss in your first Appointment:
- Who will make health care decisions for the person with dementia?
- Who will manage the property and finances of the person with dementia?
- Who will manage their personal care?
- How will long-term care be paid for? Can MediCal, Veteran’s benefits, or long-term care insurance policies help?
What to Bring to your Elder Law Attorney:
- Life insurance policies
- Real Estate deed copies
- Recent Income Tax copies
- Estate Planning Documents (trusts, wills, power of attorney)
- Health Care Facility documents (retirement home, nursing home, if applicable)
- Health Insurance Policy Information
- List of itemized assets
- Names and addresses of family, caregivers, and professionals involved (for example, beneficiaries if there is a will or trust)
3 Tips for Success:
1. Ensure that your loved one’s doctors and caregivers have a copy of their power of attorney
2. Have your loved one name a successor agent on the power of attorney
3. Consider hiring a neutral third party to act as power of attorney, trustee, or executor.
Most Elder Law attorneys will offer a free consultation to answer any questions you might have. It is important to hire an attorney who works in the county your loved one resides in. I frequently work with families on Conservatorship and Trust matters in Contra Costa County and Alameda County. To set up your initial consultation, call 925-322-1763. I'll be happy to speak with you.