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estate planning and elder law

When A Loved One Is Diagnosed with Alzheimer’s

Difference Between a Living Will and a Last Will
Obviously, the first step is to work with your doctor to slow the progression. However, there are legal steps you need to take as quickly as possible.

A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or any serious progressive disease for a loved one is devastating for a family and takes some time to absorb. However, during the days and weeks after the diagnosis, it is important to take quick steps to protect the person’s health as well as their legal and financial lives, advises the recent article “What to do after an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis?” from The Indiana Lawyer. Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC, LLC, has advised many clients on what steps to take when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Here are the legal steps that need to be taken, before the person is too incapacitated to legally conduct their own affairs:

General Durable Power of Attorney—A person needs to be appointed to perform legal and financial duties when the time comes. This can be a family member, trusted friend or a professional.

Health Care Power of Attorney —A person must be entrusted with making health care decisions when the patient is no longer able to communicate their wishes.

HIPAA Authorization—Without this document, medical care providers will not be able to discuss the person’s illness or share reports and test results. An authorized person will be able to speak with doctors, pick up prescriptions and obtain medical reports. It is not a decision-making authorization, however.

Living Will—The living will explains wishes for end-of-life medical care, including whether to prolong life using artificial means. This may be incorporated into the Health Care Power of Attorney.

Funeral Plans—Some states permit the creation of a legally enforceable document stating wishes for funerals, burials or cremation and memorial services. If a legal document is not permitted, then it is a kindness to survivors for the loved one to state wishes well ahead of declining health and to be as specific as possible.  That will alleviate the family’s stress about what their loved one would have wanted.

Medicaid Planning—When a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, the family likely already knows that care for Alzheimer’s and other dementias can be extremely costly, especially when nursing home care is needed in the late stages. A meeting with an elder law attorney is important to see if the family’s assets can be protected, while obtaining benefits to pay for long-term and dementia care.

After the patient dies, if Medicaid funds had been used to help pay for nursing home expense, there may be a claim by the state to recover Medicaid costs from the decedent’s estate. By law, states must recover assets for long-term care and related drug and hospital benefits. All assets in the recipient’s probate estate are subject to recovery, except if surviving spouse, minor children, blind or disabled child is living or where recovery would cause hardship.

With good planning and the help of an experienced elder law attorney, the family may be able to mitigate claims by the government against the estate.  Beck, Lenox & Stolzer Estate Planning and Elder Law, LLC has helped thousands of clients to select the right course of action when a loved one is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.  Whether it is to decide what funds should be used to pay for long-term care or to do Medicaid planning in order to preserve assets, we walk hand in hand with our clients through the Elder Law maze.

Reference: The Indiana Lawyer (Jan. 6, 2020) “What to do after an Alzheimer’s disease diagnosis?”


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