Estate planning can be complicated even for people in relatively good physical and mental health.
For individuals living with Alzheimer’s, the entire estate planning process can get even trickier considering their current state of being.
As of 2020, nearly six million Americans aged 65 and up have Alzheimer’s, according to the Alzheimer’s Association.
The most common form of dementia, Alzheimer’s is a progressive and irreversible disorder that affects brain cells and eventually leads to disruptive memory loss, personality and behavioral changes, language problems, and poor judgment, among other things.
With the degenerative nature of Alzheimer’s, it becomes even more imperative for patients and their loved ones to get their legal affairs in order, particularly those that pertain to their estate. They need to discuss things with their estate planning attorney before their condition progresses.
As long as they’re still capable of acting of their own free will, understanding their current family situation, and the consequences of their decisions, individuals living with Alzheimer’s, with the help of their families, can still put in place all necessary legal documents concerning their estate.
Here are some tips that can help those with Alzheimer’s and their family members do their estate planning.
Bring All Concerned Individuals Together
One of the most important initial steps when doing estate planning for a person living with Alzheimer’s is to bring all concerned parties together to discuss the situation head-on.
Ideally, the fewer people involved, the better. However, if you want to prevent the possibility of other concerned parties raising issues in the future, inviting them to the discussions sounds like a good idea.
Aside from the estate owner, other individuals who can be in the same room include his or her:
- Spouse, if applicable
- Adult children, if applicable
- Closest friends or relatives
With all relevant stakeholders doing the estate planning together from the very beginning, the process should go relatively smoothly, with little to no drama involved.
Consult Experienced Professionals
As mentioned above, making sure that the individual with Alzheimer’s is of sound mind is a crucial part of the estate planning process.
You will need the expertise of mental health and medical professionals in this regard. They can help establish the estate owner’s competency to make sound decisions regarding his or her estate and sign all legal documents that an estate planning attorney can help prepare.
Because Alzheimer’s symptoms get progressively worse over time, this stage of the process must be done during the early stages of the disease to ensure that all bases are covered and that everything reflected in all estate planning documents is the true will of the estate owner and no one else’s.
Estate Planning Documents To Be Prepared
There are different types of estate planning documents. For families of people living with Alzheimer’s, the most relevant documents that they need to prepare may include:
- Power of Attorney—This document appoints an individual and gives him or her the authority to make financial, healthcare, and end-of-life decisions for the estate owner when the latter is no longer capable of making them.
- Will—A will spells out in no uncertain terms how an estate owner’s assets are to be distributed upon his or her passing, who receives them, and who the executor should be.
- Living Will—This estate planning document firmly establishes the specific preferences of estate owners regarding the type of care they are to receive or not receive near the end of their lives. With a living will, they can state they don’t want to be resuscitated or hooked up to breathing machines, among others.
- Living Trust—If the estate owner doesn’t want his or her estate to go through a probate court, a living trust would be a better option for distributing assets to whomever he or she chooses.
Estate planning can get a bit complex and even confusing at times, especially if the estate owner chooses to go the DIY route to prepare the necessary documents.
For the best results, particularly when the individual concerned is living with Alzheimer’s, the guidance of an estate planning attorney is essential to ensure that everything will be airtight and in order.
About the Author
Lauren Summers is the Content Marketing Strategist for Miller, Miller & Canby, one of the most respected law firms in Montgomery County, and the Washington, DC metropolitan area. The firm focuses on five core areas of practice: Land Development, Real Estate, Litigation, Business and Tax, and Trusts and Estates Law. In her spare time, she reads books and plays board games with her husband and two kids.