Florida Elder Law & Estate Planning Blog


When The Diagnosis is Alzheimer’s: Legal Steps to Take

June 16, 2010

Karp Law Firm attorneys and staff attended the Alzheimer’s Educational Conference June 3-4 in Palm Beach. We talked with many caregivers, policymakers and professionals. The Palm Beach County Convention Center was filled to capacity for the event — which gives you an idea of just how serious this epidemic is. Here are the hard facts: From 2000 to 2006, while deaths from diseases like heart disease and cancer declined, deaths from Alzheimer’s Disease actually increased 46%.

Don’t panic, don’t procrastinate

If you or another family member have been diagnosed with the disease, the best advice is not to panic. Easy to say, of course. On the other hand, don’t procrastinate! The journey ahead is challenging, and the better your planning, the more energy you and your family will have to take advantage of quality time. We always tell our clients that in the case of Alzheimer’s Disease, time is not your friend. Many of the necessary legal and financial steps can only be taken while the patient remains competent. Here are some of the plans you should press ahead with before too much time passes:

The planing you need

  • The patient should establish a health care power of attorney, authorizing one or more persons to make his/her medical decisions if he/she can no longer do so.

 

  • A durable power of attorney should also be established, which will empower one or more persons to handle the patient’s financial and business affairs. If the patient already possesses these documents, they should be reviewed without delay to make sure they are in sync with your current circumstances and comply with any changes in the law that have occurred since they were drafted.

 

  • Because no one knows how the future will play out, the patient may also wish to create a living will, specifying what kind of life-prolonging treatment he does/does not prefer if he is ever in a persistent vegetative state or end-stage condition.

 

 

  • In some cases, a revocable trust or an irrevocable trust may also be appropriate estate planning vehicles.

 

Pay attention to spouse’s plans, too

If you are the spouse of someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease, it’s easy to forget about your own needs – health-wise and legally, too. Have a certified elder law attorney examine your estate planning documents as well as your spouse’s documents. Many people are so concerned about their ill husband or wife that they forget they’ve named their spouse to serve as their own decision-makers. Obviously, those kinds of arrangements will have to be modifed.

Your spouse might eventually need long-term care. If you have long-term care insurance, all the better. If not, you may want to start thinking about asset protection strategies that will allow you to tap into Florida Medicaid benefits and/or Veterans benefits. Again, the advice of a certified Elder Law Attorney is invaluable at this time.

You are not alone

In addition to your attorney, there are many community resources to guide you on your journey, including the Alzheimer’s Association,  the Florida Department of Elder Affairs, and Alzheimer’s Community Care.