Finding out that you’ve been diagnosed by Alzheimer’s can be devastating, but creating a plan for your future in the early stages of the disease is empowering. The sooner you begin legal planning to ensure that your wishes are met going forward, the better. The estate planning process starts with having conversations with your care partner and discussing the legal plans you’d like to have in place for the future.
Our Compassionate Estate Planning Team Can Help You
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we understand the challenges you face with an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. Our founding attorney focused our legal practice on elder law after walking through a Dementia diagnosis with his mother. He saw a need to provide effective and compassionate estate planning with Alzheimer’s, and he stepped in to fill that need for Southeastern Massachusetts residents. Since then, our legal team has helped many clients and their families who’ve been affected by memory loss.
I’ve Been Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, What Should I Do Now?
Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is devastating; you may feel alone and unsure about what to do next. We are here to offer practical and emotional support. Our compassionate legal planning team will stand beside you through this journey. The most critical thing you can do is to update your legal, healthcare, and financial arrangements as soon as possible.
Those in the later stages of Alzheimer’s will eventually lose their “legal capacity,” or their ability to put in place a valid legal document. Once a person has lost legal capacity, he or she cannot create legal documents. It’s important to create the legal documents you need now to ensure your wishes are met later.
Our legal team treats every client with the individual care they deserve. There is no “one size fits all” for estate planning for those with Alzheimer’s. However, everyone should take the following steps after being diagnosed with a serious medical condition:
Creating a Power of Attorney After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
Creating a power of attorney is an important step to take after receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. A power of attorney document allows you to name another individual (your agent) to make financial and legal decisions for you. Those who don’t appoint a power of attorney will be at the mercy of a Massachusetts court. The court will appoint a conservator on your behalf.
You have control over the terms of your legal document. You can give your agent the power to make decisions for you now, or limit that power to when you no longer have the legal capacity to make decisions. The creation of a power of attorney will allow your agent to pay your bills, hire an attorney, and make financial decisions on your behalf. The court might appoint a person you do not trust, so it’s best to select your power of attorney as soon as possible.
Signing a HIPAA Release
Your loved ones will not receive updates about your health from your doctors unless you sign a HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) release. You will be able to give certain individuals your consent to gather medical information and speak to doctors about your condition. This also allows someone to speak with the insurance company about billing, the pharmacy about medications, etc, allowing them to manage those items on your behalf.
Creating a Health Care Proxy
When you create a health care proxy, you appoint an individual to act as your health care agent. Your health care agent will make medical decisions on your behalf when you are no longer able to do so. As with all legal documents, you have the control to limit the types of decisions your health care proxy can make. Health care decisions often included in health care proxy include:
- Doctors and health care providers
- The types of treatments you receive
- Care facilities
- End-of-life care decisions, such as the use of feeding tubes
- Do not resuscitate (DNR) orders
End-of-life care decisions can be difficult to talk about, but it’s best to discuss your wishes with your agent in the early stages of Alzheimer’s. When your agent understands your desires clearly, he or she will be willing to act on your behalf when that time comes.
Creating an Advance Directive (Living Will)
In an advance directive, also called a living will, you can document your treatment and care preferences. Many people include a “personal wishes” statement in their living wills. Advance directives also discuss any additional preferences they’d like regarding treatment, such as whether you’d like artificial hydration, a feeding tube, pain medication, or a ventilator.
Advance directives are not legally binding in Massachusetts. However, these documents can be incredibly helpful for your healthcare agent, medical caregivers and family members. Family members often feel a sense of relief when they know they are carrying out your desires. Your loved ones will be able to focus on spending time with you rather than second-guessing the decisions they make on your behalf.
Updating Your Last Will and Testament
If you have a will-based estate plan, it’s always beneficial to review your will with your estate planning lawyer after receiving a medical diagnosis. In your will, you can name a personal representative (executor) to manage your estate. You can also name your beneficiaries, the individuals who will receive the assets in your estate. You may want to change your personal representative or other aspects of your will in light of your diagnosis. Depending on your assets and the goals you have for them, you may consider a trust-based plan. If you haven’t created a will-based or trust-based estate plan, we can help you create the best estate plan for your needs and goals.
Contact Our Southeastern Estate Planning Law Firm Today
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we work as a team to provide our clients with comprehensive estate planning services. We enjoy sitting down with our clients and learning about their needs and goals. Contact our estate planning law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.