Alzheimer's and Dementia is often diagnosed before it renders one unable to make legal decisions. This is the time in which creating a medical, legal, and financial plan for the future is critical. Without a plan in place, caregivers and family members often find themselves in an emergency situation with regards to finances, medical care, and legal matters. This can mean a great deal of stress and money that could have been avoided if proper estate planning was done. As an Elder Law attorney, I see the direct result of failure to properly plan every day.
Specific Legal Planning for Dementia
1. The Advance Medical Directive: An advance medical directive is one of the most important parts of providing for one's future care. It is a legal document that allows an individual to designate someone who can make care decisions and medical decisions on their behalf. The individual can also outline their specific health care preferences and wishes. This becomes particularly relevant when the person is no longer able to make such decisions. An advance medical directive also allows them to provide their end-of-life preferences.
2. Financial Power of Attorney: This legal document allows an individual to designate someone who will take care of their finances when they are no longer to do so on their own.
3. Communication with Family & Caregivers: Open communication among family members and caregivers who will be involved in managing the care of the person with Alzheimer's or dementia is essential. This includes making the designated healthcare agent aware of the location of legal documents. As an elder law attorney, I frequently find that honest and open communication is the key missing ingredient when people are working together to care for a loved one.
4. Wills & Trusts: Having a valid legal will or trust in place ensures that the individual's property is properly distributed after their passing. Clear, well drafted will and trust documents can help to avoid probate and litigation - both of which can lead to high legal costs.
5. Medi-Cal Planning: When someone has been diagnosed with Alzheimer's or dementia, it becomes more likely that they will have significant healthcare costs as they age. For many, this means relying on government assistance such as Medi-Cal. Proper Medi-Cal planning can save one thousands and thousands of dollars in estate claims. I recommend consulting an Elder Law attorney in your county for assistance. I specialize in Medi-Cal planning in Contra Costa County and Alameda County.
Even with proper estate planning, one cannot plan for what they cannot see. For example, the unexpected death of an executor or designated caregiver, an unplanned move, or a change of willingness by those designated to provide care and/or make decisions.
Nevertheless, I always recommend proper legal planning above not doing anything at all. Proper estate planning for persons with dementia or Alzheimer's provides one a solid alternative to avoid elder financial abuse, fights among family members, unforeseen legal and medical costs, and stress for all involved.
If you have questions about legal or Medi-Cal planning for yourself or a loved one, I offer a free consultation from my Elder Law and Estate Planning Law Office in downtown Walnut Creek. Call 925-322-1763 to set up your consultation today or click here to contact me.