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Simple or complex estate matters can be affected by Alzheimer’s

Alzheimer's is ranked by experts as the most expensive disease in America, surpassing heart disease and cancer. Oklahoma residents can be proud of their state leaders' diligent efforts to solve the many issues created by this devastating illness. With one in eight families affected by the disease, careful estate planning is critical to protect the patient and provide for his or her family.

Regardless of a person's wealth or business involvement, a proactive approach to potential future needs can be wise. Experts suggest a shadow plan – one that comes into effect if the diagnosis of Alzheimer's does arise – might be a good idea. If a diagnosis has already been received, assembling legal documents that include a health care power of attorney, do not resuscitate order, a will, bank account and insurance information is critical. A trusted person like a spouse or family member should have easy access to them.

Incapacitation strategies are important because Alzheimer's results in creeping brain deterioration. But, since it's gradual, patients have the opportunity to plan ahead. Providing for managing or disposing of property with written intention can ensure a person's wishes will be followed. Otherwise, a court would likely have to decide who should handle things through a conservator or guardian appointment.

A living will, durable power of attorney, and in some cases, a living trust are all valuable tools that can provide financial security and lessen emotional upheaval for loved ones making care decisions. Experts suggest a living trust is particularly helpful because gradual assumption of responsibilities as the Alzheimer patient declines may reduce some of the unavoidable caregiver stress.

There are laws in place that protect people who have or develop diminished mental capabilities. Courts establish conservatorships and guardianships based on information provided to them and rule of law. Estate planning and medical directives put in place while thought processes are clear gives a person the flexibility to choose what will be.

Whether Alzheimer's is the reason, a personalized review of needs and wishes can allow for controlled preparation that will serve to safeguard this aspect of a family's well-being.

Source: LifeHealthPro, "Alzheimer’s and estate planning" Tom Nawrocki, Mar. 11, 2014

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