An Alzheimer’s diagnosis means significant life changes, for the patient and for his entire family and circle of friends. If your parent or another loved one has been diagnosed with the disease, one of the first things that needs to be considered is incapacity planning: who will be in charge of financial and medical decisions as the illness progresses and your loved one can no longer manage these things by himself?
Depending on your loved one’s condition, one of two approaches can be taken.
If an Alzheimer’s patient still has the mental capacity to understand the legal significance of his actions, he can make an incapacity plan. This involves using a financial power of attorney to put a family member or friend in charge of his finances. It also involves using a durable power of attorney for healthcare to name a trusted person to make medical decisions on his behalf, and making a living will, clarifying what end-of-live medical interventions should or should not be used. With an effective incapacity plan, your loved one can rest assured that people he knows and trusts will be in charge of making all the important decisions once he loses the ability to do so himself.
If the patient no longer has the mental capacity to make an incapacity plan, then it’s time for friends and family, with the help of the probate court, to step in. Through a process known as “living probate”, the court can appoint a guardian to make personal decisions on behalf of your loved one and/or a conservator to manage his finances.
Need more information on incapacity planning or living probate? A qualified estate planning attorney can help.