Managing the Impact of Alzheimer’s Disease Legally
Just about everyone has heard of Alzheimer’s disease, and those who have been touched by it through aging family members are well aware of the impact. However, a significant percentage of people are quite surprised when they hear some of the facts about this scourge on our nation’s elderly.
Alzheimer’s strikes 13 percent of all seniors. By the time you reach 85 years of age there is more than a four in 10 chance that you will be suffer from Alzheimer’s.
You may respond by saying that it is unlikely that you will reach such an advanced age. In truth, once you reach the age of 65 it becomes statistically likely that you will in fact live into your 80s. Those individuals who comprise the age group known in geriatric circles as the “oldest old” are among the fastest growing age demographic subset. Even the IRS recognizes that the older you get, the longer your life expectancy.
In the context of being prepared legally for this kind of illness, the intelligent response is to have legal documents in place before the incapacitating effects of Alzheimer’s affect your abilities. Being proactive in the fact of the possibility of contracting Alzheimer’s disease is essential.
The tools that estate planning lawyers use for incapacity planning are most commonly the revocable living trust, a durable property power of attorney, a living will, a health care power of attorney, and a HIPAA release. These tools are well established and commonly relied on.
But timing is critical. These documents must be signed before the need for them actually exists. If you wait until some day in the future, and your capacity to execute legal documents under legal standards becomes impaired, then it will be too late. In such an event, your family may have no option excpet to ask the Probate Court appoint a legal guardian for you. That’s what used to be called “probating” a person. If that sound like an unpleasant situation then you are right. It is humiliating for the person being probated, agonizing on the family who must do it, and costly. Then the worst part begins — the court control over the guardian’s use of the ward’s money and finances, with strict reporting requirements.
In the age of Alzheimer’s incapacity planning is a must. If you are not currently prepared, contact our firm to set up a consultation.