Dealing With Alzheimer’s from a Legal Perspective

The CDC currently estimates that more than 5 million Americans currently have the dreaded Alzheimer’s disease, and that number could double by 2050 due to the aging trends in the US population. Receiving an Alzheimer’s diagnosis is both heartbreaking and terrifying for most families. It is important to take steps to prepare for and effectively deal with the emotional turmoil of losing one’s memory, but it is also vital that you take practical steps to prepare.

From a legal perspective, Alzheimer’s and any other form of dementia can create serious issues with regard to estate planning, medical care, Long-Term Care, and much more. The more the disease progresses, the less likely documents signed by the person with Alzheimer’s will be considered legally enforceable, making it extremely difficult to do the things you must do for your loved ones during their lifetime as well as after they have passed away.

So what should you do when you or a loved one receives an Alzheimer’s diagnosis? Firstly, it is essential that you move as quickly as possible. Secondly—amongst many other estate planning and Medicaid planning documentation you will likely need to create and sign—you need to have a skilled attorney draft a Durable Family Power of Attorney.

By its simplest definition, a power of attorney grants legal authority to a person, known as an “agent,” to carry out some action or make some sort of decision on behalf of the person who created the document, known as the “principal” or “grantor.”

Powers of attorney can be granted in numerous situations for various reasons and for varying lengths of time. However, a regular power of attorney will not remain in effect if the grantor becomes incapacitated, as is the case when Alzheimer’s has advanced to a degree where the individual would not be considered legally able to make informed and reasonable decisions. A durable power of attorney, however, is intended to remain in force after the grantor becomes incapacitated.

Thus, a durable power of attorney is vital for anyone facing an Alzheimer’s diagnosis. As mental faculties decline, those suffering with the disease will eventually become unable to keep up with the necessities of day-to-day living by themselves. However, bills will still need to be paid, medical decisions will need to be made, and many other actions will need to be taken on that person’s behalf. When the Alzheimer’s sufferer becomes unable to make those decisions on their own, a durable power of attorney grants the authority to make such decisions to a capable and trusted loved one.

You cannot wait to draft a durable power of attorney, however, as the validity could be later called into question if it can be argued that the disease had progressed too far for the individual to make a competent decision in selecting an agent. As soon as you learn that you or a loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s you should contact ProActive Legal Care to discuss your best course of action and what steps you should take in order to create a Durable Family Power of Attorney. Give us a call today to learn more.

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