In 1983 President Ronald Reagan designated November as National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness month to raise awareness about this disease. Thirty-four years later, the number of people with Alzheimer’s has reached unimaginable heights with more than 5.5 million Americans living with the disease today.
Here are some other facts about the disease provided by Alzheimer’s Association:
- By 2050, 16 million Americans could have Alzheimer’s;
- Approximately 15 million Americans provide unpaid care for people with Alzheimer’s or some form of dementia; and
- Alzheimer’s and dementia will cost the nation $289 billion this year.
After an Alzheimer’s or dementia diagnosis, families are understandably overwhelmed with the care needed for their loved one and do not always know their options. However, it is important for families to seek advice from an elder law attorney so that a comprehensive plan is in place before it is too late. Having Alzheimer’s disease or dementia does not automatically mean that you lack mental capacity to make planning decisions, but you need to act quickly after diagnosis.
In New York, the mental capacity required to execute planning documents varies depending on the document being signed. For example, the level of capacity required to execute a Last Will and Testament is referred to as “Testamentary Capacity” and it is an extraordinarily low. Testamentary capacity is measured at the time of the Will’s execution and a person signing the Will need only have a “lucid interval” of capacity to execute a valid Will.
The following are essential documents for someone diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or 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 form of dementia because it allows you to appoint someone to make decisions on your behalf. 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 time consuming and expensive.
- 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.
- Advance Directive or Living Will. Advance directives and living wills explain what type of care you would like if you are unable to direct your own care. An advance directive 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/ or Trust. In addition to making sure you have people to act for you and your wishes are clear, you should make sure your Will is up to date, or if you don’t have one, you should consider creating one. Your Will directs who will receive your property when you die and who will oversee the administration of your estate. An estate plan may also include a trust, which allows you to preserve and protect assets and pass your property outside of probate.
It is important to create a plan for long-term care as it 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. Our firm can assist you in developing that plan and drafting any necessary documents. Contact us today. We would be happy to work with you.