On average, a person has four to eight years to live after being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. That’s time best spent enjoying family and other loved ones, not dotting I’s and crossing T’s on legal documents.
But when it comes to you, your husband or wife, or an aging parent facing the dark promise of the debilitating effects of Alzheimer’s, it means coming to terms with crushing realities. That includes acknowledging the patient’s inevitable loss of the ability to make end-of-life decisions and manage finances.
Perhaps the medical answers to Alzheimer’s disease are somewhere on a not too distant horizon, but the answers to the legal issues the disease raises are available now.
Florida Estate Planning and Alzheimer’s Disease
You built what you have with the help of family, friends, and community. You don’t have to face wills, trusts, estate planning, and guardianship issues alone, either. The compassionate attorneys at the Florida law firm of Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant can guide you through that legal maze and put your family in the position to handle the financial and legal challenges of Alzheimer’s. It’s all about planning.
Florida courts will step in if you have not designated who should act on your behalf or how your assets should be divided once you are mentally incapacitated by Alzheimer’s. Those are family affairs, though, and they should be left to families when possible. The process can remain dignified and private if a Florida estate planning attorney crafts and executes a strategy designed to ensure your wishes are fulfilled and that your loved ones don’t get tangled up in the courts.
When you schedule a consultation with Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant, your legal planning for Alzheimer’s disease will begin with a checklist like this:
Who will handle your finances if you can’t? Choosing a person and giving them durable power of attorney is the first step toward ensuring those financial decisions will be made by someone who meets with your approval.
How should your health care be handled if you are incapable of communicating your wishes? In Florida, having an “advance directive” allows you to dictate your health care wishes in advance and designate a health care surrogate who can see that your wishes are followed.
What will happen to your minor children? If you do not designate a guardian, the court will do it for you. Planning now for that transition can give you the comfort of knowing your minor children will be under the care of a trusted individual or couple.
What’s going to happen to your home and other assets? If you die intestate (without a valid will), a lengthy probate process supervised by the court will decide what goes to whom, and the decisions will be made by a judge.
Do you have a funeral plan? If so, it should be part of your will.
Where’s the paperwork? Make your estate plan and the location of relevant paperwork known to someone you trust.
An estate planning attorney will help you designate a health care surrogate to carry out your health care wishes, ensure that durable powers of attorney are in place so representatives of your choosing can make financial decisions in your stead, and structure your assets in a way that helps with long-term care planning.
A Thorough, Valid Will Is a Must
When it comes to Alzheimer’s planning, a professionally prepared last will and testament is absolutely necessary. Without a clear and legally binding will, family squabbles and court decisions can make life miserable for those you love after you are gone or simply no longer able to take care of things.
Where applicable, your will should stipulate who will be the personal representative of your estate, identify beneficiaries and stipulate how assets should be divided, detail funeral arrangements, outline guardianship and financial decisions regarding minor children, delineate a succession plan for a family business, and designate charitable donations.
Crafting a will should not be a do-it-yourself project. A good lawyer can help you get a plan on paper that will make life easier for your family at a difficult time and ensure that your wishes are not ignored. The seasoned attorneys at Chiumento Dwyer Hertel Grant have more than four decades of experience in estate planning, and we can help you take the additional steps needed to protect your hard-earned assets.
Using Trusts for Long-Term Planning
Trusts are an invaluable estate planning tool, one that can help you arrange for long-term care and save your heirs a lot of hassle and money down the road.
The typical Alzheimer’s diagnosis leaves someone looking at a life expectancy of four to eight years, but the debilitating disease sometimes takes 20 or so years to run its course. The care needed by someone with severe Alzheimer’s can be financially crippling, which is why Medicaid’s Institutional Care Program is such a blessing. It’s a financial safety net, but it’s one that won’t be available if income or assets are too high.
If your income exceeds the cap for Medicaid assistance, talk to our lawyers about setting up a Qualified Income Trust. You can put a portion of your monthly income in the trust, with the goal of lowering your income to a point where you can qualify for Medicaid assistance for nursing home care.
If your assets exceed the cap allowed for Medicaid assistance, our attorneys can help you legally protect assets in a way that drops your bottom line to a point where Medicaid assistance is possible.
Why might this be necessary? Consider that the Florida Health Care Association estimates that it costs about $90,000 a year to keep someone in a nursing home. So a family should not wait until they are at that point to sit down with an attorney and craft an Alzheimer’s plan.
Start Planning for Alzheimer’s Before It’s Too Late
Our Palm Coast estate planning law firm has been serving families in Flagler and Volusia counties for more than 40 years. During that time, we have witnessed the pain and uncertainty Alzheimer’s creates as it slowly claims a loved one, be it a husband, wife, or parent. That experience has taught us that planning makes a difference in easing the legal and financial stresses the disease inflicts.
Contact us if the time has come for you and your family to prepare yourselves for the battle against Alzheimer’s.