If you have recently been diagnosed with early stage Alzheimer’s, or a similar condition, it is important to begin legal planning for your future as soon as possible. Creating planning documents now can ensure your personal wishes are respected and your financial interests are protected in case of an incapacity and nursing home stay.

First, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, especially an early stage diagnosis, does not mean that a person no longer has the legal capacity to execute and sign legal planning documents. What specific capacity is necessary for each document is a matter of state law, but a person can still theoretically have the legal capacity to sign certain documents even in relatively advanced stages of decline. However, beginning planning as soon as possible allows for people to better understand and evaluate all of their available planning options.

Second, all of the following documents should be drafted by a local, experienced elder law attorney working with an individual client’s needs in mind. Mere forms do not present the flexibility to fully reflect an individual’s needs and wishes, and also more critically, may not have the intended legal effect when the time comes to put the planning documents into action. What constitutes a valid document can vary by state, so working with a local, experienced attorney to create documents that fit your particular situation is critical.

In terms of health care, a living will and a health care power of attorney provide guidance for what standards of care you want and who can make further decisions on your behalf in case of an incapacity. These documents can provide as detailed, or general, guidance as you want. An elder law attorney can guide you through all the potential issues you may want to consider.

A financial power of attorney names a representative to make decisions regarding your property and financial assets in case of incapacity. If a situation arises where certain steps are needed to avoid certain tax situations or prudently apply for Medicaid nursing home coverage, a financial power of attorney can allow the appointed representative to take the necessary steps to best protect your assets if you cannot act for yourself. An elder law attorney can again guide you through your available options.

Additionally, individuals should consider taking planning steps now to protect their property and financial assets from a potential nursing home stay. An Alzheimer’s diagnosis means an increased likelihood of spending time in a nursing home. Nursing home stays are incredibly expensive and any sort of extended stay can drain the resources of many individuals. Given enough time before such a stay becomes necessary, an elder law attorney can work with an individual to protect their assets in case of a future nursing home stay.

To begin planning to protect your interests after an Alzheimer’s diagnosis, please call Martha C. Brown & Associates at (314) 962-0186.