Many people are unprepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of a serious illness such as Alzheimer’s disease. Legal and medical experts encourage people recently diagnosed with a serious illness—particularly one that is expected to cause declining mental and physical health—to examine and update their financial and healthcare arrangements as soon as possible. Basic legal and financial documents, such as a will, a living trust, and advance directives, are available to ensure that the person’s late-stage or end-of-life healthcare and financial decisions are carried out.
A complication of diseases such as Alzheimer’s is that the person may lack or gradually lose the ability to think clearly. This change affects his or her ability to make decisions and participate in legal and financial planning.
People with early-stage Alzheimer’s disease can often understand many aspects and consequences of legal decision making. However, legal and medical experts say that many forms of planning can help the person and his or her family even if the person is diagnosed with later-stage Alzheimer’s.
There are good reasons to retain a lawyer when preparing advance planning documents. For example, a lawyer can help interpret different State laws and suggest ways to ensure that the person’s and family’s wishes are carried out. It’s important to understand that laws vary by State, and changes in a person’s situation—for instance, a divorce, relocation, or death in the family—can influence how documents are prepared and maintained.
Strategies and Legal Documents
Families beginning the legal planning process should discuss a number of strategies and legal documents. Depending on the family situation and the applicable State laws, a lawyer may introduce some or all of the following terms and documents to assist in this process:
- Documents that communicate the healthcare wishes of someone who can no longer make healthcare decisions
- Documents that communicate the financial management and estate plan wishes of someone who can no longer make financial decisions
Permission for Caregiver Communication
Get permission in advance for the person with Alzheimer’s doctor or lawyer to talk with their caregiver as needed. There may be questions about care, a bill, or a health insurance claim. Without consent, the caregiver may not be able to get needed information.
Healthcare providers cannot act as legal or financial advisers, but they can encourage planning discussions between patients and their families. Qualified clinicians can also guide patients, families, the care team, attorneys, and judges regarding the patient’s ability to make decisions. Medicare covers advance care planning discussions between doctors and their patients.
An elder law attorney helps older people and families interpret State laws, plan how their wishes will be carried out, understand their financial options, and learn how to preserve financial assets while caring for a loved one.
If you need legal assistance in managing an estate, trust or other elder law issue, the Law Office of Scott C. Painter can help. We specialize in elder law issues ranging from nursing home planning, guardianship, wills, trusts, estates, veteran’s benefits, and other related legal matters. A call to us is free, and the best advice is to act now to educate yourself and your options. Waiting to seek legal counsel may limit your options and be costly. Call now for your free consultation 610-378-5140 or visit http://painterelderlawpc.com/ for more information.