An estimated 5.7 million Americans are currently living with Alzheimer’s disease. Most common among people over the age of 65, it is a progressive form of dementia that affects a person’s memory, thinking and behavior. When a parent or spouse is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, it can leave the family feeling not only saddened about the idea of their loved one losing his or her memory, but they may also feel helpless and confused about their next steps. The following is Jack’s story and how an elder law attorney helped his daughters through Alzheimer’s with asset protection strategies.
Jack was always frugal when it came to spending money. Maybe it was because he grew up in England during World War II, with a limited diet and only his imagination for entertainment. Maybe it was because Ida, the woman he married after he emigrated to America, grew up during The Great Depression in a large, very poor family. Or maybe it was because they raised five daughters in southern California, and had to be very careful with the family’s funds.
As a skilled tool and die maker, Jack brought home a decent living wage – it was enough to put food on the table, and to provide ballet classes, piano lessons and parochial school education for his daughters. Entertainment was almost always something that was cheap, or better yet, free: trips to the local beach, rides out to the airport to watch planes fly, and regular get-togethers with Ida’s large family.
After Ida passed away, Jack’s daughters started noticing changes in his behavior and actions. After an appointment with a geriatric physician, the diagnosis came back as likely Alzheimer’s disease. Jack had to give up driving, and transitioned from the family home to an apartment before moving into an independent senior community.
The Next Steps After an Alzheimer’s Diagnosis
During this period of transition, Jack’s daughters started discussing his future needs and finances. Jack’s nest egg was comfortable for a frugal man living a normal retirement, but likely would not last if long-term care in a Memory Care unit was needed. The women were focused on stretching their father’s dollars as much as possible, but had no clue how to do so.
One of Jack’s daughters consulted a financial advisor who specialized in helping seniors with long-term care planning. He suggested an elder law attorney, and provided a recommendation. The advisor also recommended the family look to the local Alzheimer’s Association for information about their father’s disease. The Alzheimer’s Association helped Jack’s daughters understand the stages of his disease, what to expect at each stage, and how to appropriately react to their father’s physical, neurological and social changes in a patient and loving way.
What Type of Attorney Can Help a Family Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease?
It’s important to note that Jack’s daughters were directed to an elder law attorney instead of an estate planning attorney. But why? Both could write up Durable Power of Attorney documents, or POAs, for health care and finances, and both could write up a family trust.
All elder law attorneys are also estate planning attorneys, but most estate planning attorneys are not elder law attorneys. Only an elder law attorney can best advise on all the legal aspects of aging, and the best ways to pay for long-term care. The elder law attorney looks at a client’s income and assets, and can suggest certain asset protection strategies based upon the current and likely future needs of their client. The attorney also knows how to properly re-position assets to access government assistance, such as Medicaid or Medicare.
Financial Help for Alzheimer’s with Asset Protection Strategies
Jack’s daughters learned that it was possible to preserve at least half of their dad’s assets and have him qualify for Medicaid, should he eventually need care in a skilled nursing facility. The elder law attorney updated Jack’s POAs to assign decision-making responsibilities to the daughters he selected. These executors would be empowered to make health care and financial decisions when Jack could no longer do that for himself. The attorney also created an irrevocable trust.
An irrevocable trust is done to protect assets if an individual requires long-term care in a skilled nursing environment. According to Medicaid regulations, there is a five-year lookback on all assets that may have been transferred or gifted to others. If Jack did not need skilled care for five or more years, 100 percent of the assets put into the irrevocable trust would be protected, and Jack could qualify for Medicaid. The skilled facility would take Jack’s Social Security and his pension, and Medicaid would assume the rest of the monthly cost.
Deciding whether or not to create the trust was a point of discernment for Jack’s daughters, who had concerns about their father ever having to go on Medicaid. On the other hand, they wanted to preserve as much of his assets as possible – knowing how frugal he had been for his entire life. As it turned out, Jack eventually moved into an Assisted Living Memory Care unit and lived there for two-and-a-half years until his death. With his monthly income and some funds remaining outside of the trust, he was able to pay privately for his care and never needed Medicaid.
Moving Forward from Alzheimer’s Disease with Confidence
Jack’s family was happy with their decision to seek help with his estate planning, and had peace of mind as they supported their dad through his remaining time on Earth. His family endorses the use of an elder law attorney to help with Alzheimer’s with asset protection strategies, Medicaid planning and the creation of POAs.
Beck Estate Planning & Elder Law in St. Charles, Mo., has an impeccable reputation, and offers a free consultation to families who are facing a similar situation to Jack and his daughters. If your parent or spouse has dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, or is exhibiting signs of dementia, give yourself peace of mind by contacting Beck Estate Planning & Elder Law today.