Four Steps to Take Right After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis

If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, it is important to start planning immediately. There are several essential documents to help you once you become incapacitated, but if you don’t already have them in place, you need to act quickly after a diagnosis.

Having dementia does not mean an individual is not mentally competent to make planning decisions. The person signing documents must have “testamentary capacity,” which means he or she must understand the implications of what is being signed. Simply having a form of mental illness or disease does not mean that you automatically lack the required mental capacity. As long as you have periods of lucidity, you may still be competent to sign planning documents.

The following are some essential documents for someone diagnosed with dementia:

  • Power of Attorney. A power of attorney is the most important estate planning document for someone who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or some other form of dementia. A power of attorney allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf once you become incapacitated. Without a power of attorney, your family would be unable to pay your bills or manage your household without going to court and getting a guardianship, which can be a time-consuming and expensive process.
  • Health Care Proxy. A health care proxy, like a power of attorney, allows you to appoint someone else to act as your agent for medical decisions. It will ensure that your medical treatment instructions are carried out. In general, a health care proxy takes effect only when you require medical treatment and a physician determines that you are unable to communicate your wishes concerning treatment.
  • Advanced Directive for Health Care or Living Will. Advanced directives and living wills explain what type of care you would like if you are unable to direct your own care. An advance directive can include a health care proxy or it can be a separate document. It may contain directions to refuse or remove life support in the event you are in a coma or a vegetative state or it may provide instructions to use all efforts to keep you alive, no matter what the circumstances.
  • Will and Other Estate Planning Documents. In addition to making sure you have people to act for you and your wishes are clear, you should make sure your estate plan is up to date, or if you don’t have an estate plan, you should draw one up.  Your estate plan directs who will receive your property when you die. Once you are deemed incapacitated, you will no longer be able to create an estate plan. An estate plan usually consists of a will, and often a trust as well. Your will is your legally binding statement on who will receive your property when you die, while a trust is a mechanism for passing on your property outside of probate.

In addition to executing these documents, it is also important to create a plan for long-term care. Long-term care is expensive and draining for family members. Developing a plan now for what type of care you would like and how to pay for it will help your family later on. Your attorney can assist you in developing that plan and drafting any necessary documents.

If you would like more information feel free to contact our office today.

Estate Planning Tips for Natural Disasters

Natural disasters can be extremely scary for all involved. Many people lose their lives and leave their families behind because they’re unable to get help during an emergency. It can also be scary for outsiders to watch as so many helpless people are injured or killed during a natural disaster. It’s important to have a plan in place, so that you and your family are protected, no matter what happens. Below are 10 estate planning tips to keep in mind in order for you and your family to be better prepared for a natural disaster.

  1. Keep a copy of your critical documents in a fireproof safe, safety deposit box, or in the cloud in a password-protected folder that can be accessed outside of the disaster zone.
  2. Create a password file so your representatives can access your 401k, IRA and investment accounts. It is almost impossible to get information on your investments and life insurance policies without the requisite paperwork and account information.
  3. Make sure your personal representatives and trustees have copies of your current wills, trusts, advance directives and powers of attorneys. We provide copies to give to clients so that they can email them to the right person.
  4. Keep your CPA or financial adviser up to date on your estate plan and who prepared it. Your representatives will need to contact the attorney who hopefully has copies of your executed documents in a safe and accessible place.
  5. Know where you homeowners insurance policy is and communicate with your agent on where back-up copies might be placed.
  6. Find your life insurance policies, scan them and get rid of the expired ones. Know how much insurance you have through your employer and who the beneficiaries are.
  7. Create an inventory of your assets and liabilities and update it once a year. Lost accounts and utility deposits happen frequently and ended up being turned over to the state when the owner cannot be found.
  8. Create an emergency number for family members to call that is a landline. Cell phones may not be operative. Keep hard copy list of the phone numbers of extended family members–not just in your cell phone.
  9. Don’t assume the courthouses will be in operation anytime soon. Many of the buildings are seismic-deficient and paper records may be destroyed.
  10. If you have sufficient assets, consider preparing a trust to avoid probate and name an out-of -state back-up trustee to administer your estate.

For more information on how you can better prepare yourself for a natural disaster contact us today.