By acting in the early phases of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease, patients can ensure that their wishes concerning financial and health care matters are known and followed when they can no longer speak or make their own decisions. Because the progression of both diseases is unpredictable, proper legal documents should be put in place as soon as possible. Having proper legal planning and documents allows more flexibility, better equipping patients and their families to deal with whatever legal, medical, or financial problems happen later.
If you or a loved one is faced with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, the single most important planning step is to put into place the correct powers of attorney for financial and medical decisions. A durable power of attorney is a document that names an agent to handle financial, real estate, and business matters on behalf of the principal (the person who signs the power of attorney). The agent has the authority to act on the principal’s behalf, but only to the extent the principal granted the power to act in the document. People who have Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s generally should have a very broad, all-encompassing power of attorney.
Just having a durable power of attorney is not enough. Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s patients should work with an elder law attorney to draft powers of attorney with these four key powers:
- The power to apply for public benefits (such as Medicaid) in case that is later needed for your care;
- The power to make unlimited gifts on your behalf and do Medicaid planning;
- The power to make decisions based on your overall well-being, not just from a financial perspective; and
- The power to create an irrevocable trust for you, and to remove or add assets to that trust.
Talk with an experienced elder law attorney to make sure you have the proper powers of attorney in place to protect yourself and your family.
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