Updated: Apr 13
An Alzheimer’s diagnosis is one of the most heartbreaking things that can happen to you and your loved ones. Although there are medications and palliative treatments that can help ease the effects of the disease, there is still no known cure for progressive dementia. The unknowns, stress, and fear brought on by a diagnosis can make planning for the future feel like a daunting—although necessary—task.
Estate planning when you’ve been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s
When starting your estate planning journey after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, we recommend working with a lawyer or other advisor who specializes in incapacity planning. There may come a time when your will and documents are challenged due to incapacity. It’s important that a lawyer is available to navigate those challenges and determine the validity of the healthcare and financial decisions that were made prior to the progression of the disease.
In addition to a validly executed will drafted with the help of your lawyer, there are three important documents that should be gathered and completed as part of your estate plan.
Alzheimer’s and enduring power of attorney for financial decisions
With a power of attorney document, you can appoint an alternative decision-maker (an “attorney”) to make financial decisions for you while you are still mentally capable of managing your own affairs. This prevents that power from being given to the Court. When you have a progressive illness, a validly executed enduring power of attorney is required.
An enduring power of attorney allows for the alternative decision-maker to continue making decisions on your behalf once you have lost the legal capacity to do so. Decisions can include paying for care, selecting the type of care provided, and day-to-day maintenance of your finances. By establishing these ahead of time, you and your loved ones can rest assured that your wishes are carried out, regardless of your mental state.
Alzheimer’s and advanced care planning
While an enduring power of attorney will help to ensure your finances are taken care of, an advanced health care planning document allows you to determine your care wishes before you lose capacity to do so.
This document allows you to provide consent or refusal of certain types of healthcare, like life support and life prolonging medical interventions, in advance. Having this document in place can help to alleviate stress amongst your loved ones having to make potentially difficult health care decisions while ensuring your wishes are carried out.
It’s important to note that the name for these documents varies by province and territory.
Alzheimer’s and a living trust
In addition to an enduring power of attorney and advanced care planning documents, you may want to discuss a living trust (also called an inter vivos trust) with your lawyer. While you're in the earlier stages of your diagnosis, you can distribute and manage your assets according to your wishes before you lose capacity to do so.
A living trust involves drafting instructions per your wishes on how to deal with your money and property. The money and property are put in a trust and a trustee appointed by you manages the trust’s assets. This would allow for your trustee to make decisions such as paying bills, selling property, and managing assets when you no longer have the capacity to do so.
Alzheimer’s and storing your estate planning documents
An often overlooked but equally vital aspect of estate planning is selecting a suitable location to store your documents. It’s important that your carefully crafted legal documents are stored in a secure yet easy to access location. However, it’s also important that things like insurance policies and banking information are accessible to those who are caring for you now or settling your estate when you’re gone.
Ensuring that all of your key documents are in a safe and centralized place can help alleviate some of the stress of dealing with the uncertainties of a progressive illness.
A digital life and legacy platform like EstateBox can be used to upload, organize, and store key documents in one highly secure, centralized location. You can then give trusted people like your lawyer, alternative decision-maker, and loved ones, view or even edit access to documents and information as needed. This way, they have immediate and approved access to the information they need to care for your financial affairs and carry out your health care wishes as needed.
Peace of mind for you today, and peace for your family later
Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can turn your life and the lives of your loved ones upside down. A progressive disease like dementia can be incredibly difficult to navigate as you ponder the unknowns and prepare for a very different life than the one you had planned.
As you prepare for an uncertain future, it’s important that your loved ones are aware of your wishes and that the correct legal documents are in place before you’re unable to make decisions for yourself.
Preparing for the inevitable in advance will give you the time and space to enjoy the valuable time you have with your loved ones today, without worrying about who will make decisions and care for you in the future.
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While we’re passionate about all things estate planning, we’re not professionals. We recommend speaking with your lawyer or financial advisor when putting together an estate plan.