Estate planning with Alzheimer’s becomes even more critical, as the number of Americans who live with Alzheimer’s Disease increases. Currently, 5.8 million Americans live with Alzheimer’s Disease, according to the Alzheimer’s Association. In 2050, an estimated 14 million people will live with Alzheimer’s in the United States. Every 65 seconds, another person becomes diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease.
Our Compassionate Estate Planning Team Can Help
At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we understand the challenges faced by those with Alzheimer’s and their loved ones. Our founding attorney decided to focus our legal practice on elder law after he experienced going through an Alzheimer’s diagnosis with his mother. Seeing a need for compassionate and effective estate planning with Alzheimer’s, he stepped in to fill a need.
If you or a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, our legal team can help coach you through creating an estate plan. You are not alone as you walk through this journey. Contact our Southeastern Massachusetts estate planning law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.
The Goal of Estate Planning with Alzheimer’s Disease
Many Massachusetts families are not prepared for the challenges that a serious illness like Alzheimer’s Disease can bring. Medical and legal experts encourage those who have been recently diagnosed with a serious illness to update their healthcare and financial arrangements as soon as possible. Sadly, Alzheimer’s Disease will cause declining physical health. Taking the time to create an estate plan or update estate planning documents can help a person diagnosed with Alzheimer’s ensure his or her wishes are followed.
Alzheimer’s Disease progresses differently in every patient, making it challenging to predict the future. The goal of estate planning with Alzheimer’s should be to ensure that the wishes of the individual with Alzheimer’s are carried out, especially after he or she becomes unable to communicate effectively. Another goal is to preserve wealth to ensure that you have the resources to access quality treatment and living conditions.
Preparing an Advance Directive with Alzheimer’s
Advance directives are legal documents that allow you to document your preferences when it comes to treatment and care. Your advance directive will state your end-of-life wishes. Should you become permanently incapacitated or unable to make your own decisions, the advance directive will state your medical preferences and allow doctors to follow those directives. For example, you will be able to choose whether or not you’d like to refuse certain life-sustaining treatment should you become incapacitated. You’ll also be able to determine what specific treatments you would like should you lose your ability to make decisions for yourself.
You will need to appoint a person to act as your health care proxy, or “agent” to make end-of-life decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated. Keep in mind that you will be able to continue to make decisions for yourself until a medical professional determines that you are medically incapacitated. You have the option to appoint a loved one, friend, or a doctor to act as your agent should you become incapacitated. If you do select your doctor to act as your attorney-in-fact, a different doctor will need to certify your incapacity.
Do I Need a Living Will for Alzheimer’s Disease Estate Planning?
Massachusetts does not legally recognize living wills. However, you can add a “personal wishes” statement to your advance directive. In this portion of your advance directive, you can discuss any additional preference you have regarding your treatment. For example, you can state whether or not you’d like pain medication, a feeding tube, or artificial hydration. You can also indicate whether you’d like to receive intravenous fluids, a blood transfusion, or a ventilator.
Writing down your preferences will also help your loved ones as they walk through your Alzheimer’s diagnosis. When your loved ones know your preferences, they can rest assured that they are working to carry out your desires. They will not need to second-guess themselves, and they’ll be able to focus on spending time with you and reflecting on their relationship with you.
Appointing a Power of Attorney After an Alzheimer’s Disease Diagnosis
Advance directives are essential when it comes to making end-of-life medical decisions. Those with Alzheimer’s disease face challenges in other areas of their life as well. They may lose the ability to drive, live independently, or handle financial affairs for themselves. In Massachusetts, a power of attorney document is a powerful estate planning tool. A durable power of attorney allows you to choose an agent who will make non-medical decisions on your behalf if you become incapacitated.
Your agent will have the legal authority to make business and financial decisions on your behalf. In a general or ordinary power of attorney, you can appoint an agent to act on your behalf in all matters up until the point when you become incapacitated. Should you become incapacitated, a durable power of attorney will allow an agent to make decisions on your behalf.
Those who do not appoint an attorney-in-fact will be at the mercy of a Massachusetts court. After a potentially lengthy court proceeding, a court will appoint a conservator who will have the authority to make financial decisions and transactions on your behalf.
Estate Planning with Alzheimer’s Can Give You Peace of Mind
Those with Alzheimer’s are keenly aware that time is a gift. Taking the time to engage in estate planning while you can make decisions will give you and your loved ones more time to focus on enjoying each other. At Surprenant & Beneski, PC, we treat all of our clients with compassion and empathy. We understand how challenging an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be for everyone involved.
We appreciate the opportunity to sit down with our clients to learn about their goals and needs. After gathering a thorough understanding of their wishes, we focus on creating comprehensive estate plans that help them make their wishes known and preserve their wealth. Contact our estate planning law firm today to schedule your initial consultation.