As elder law attorneys, we are highly sensitive to all circumstances that impact senior citizens. One of them is the looming threat of Alzheimer’s disease.
Everyone has heard of this horribly debilitating disease, but most people do not understand how widespread it has become. We will provide all of the important details in this post, and we will also explain how it can impact you from a planning perspective.
Censuses are taken every 10 years. A new one has been rolled out in 2020, but the results are not in. This being stated, between the 2000 and 2010 censuses, the segment of the population that was between 85 and 94 years of age grew faster than any other 10 year age grouping.
According to the Social Security Administration, if you live to be 67, your life expectancy is 85 years if you are a man. For a woman, it is 87 years. When you wrap your head around these numbers, you can see that it is very possible that you will experience life as an octogenarian.
Ubiquity of the Disease
The Alzheimer’s Association is a fantastic source of information about the disease, and there are proactive resources offered as well. You will find a treasure trove of statistics there, and one of them really stands out. About 10 percent of all seniors have contracted Alzheimer’s, and the number swells to 32 percent when you’re talking about people that are 85 years old and older.
As we all know, Alzheimer’s causes dementia that strips people of their ability to take care of themselves. Plus, it is worthwhile to note that is actually the sixth leading cause of death in the United States.
Obviously, people with advanced stage Alzheimer’s disease are not going to be able to handle their own personal and financial affairs. When nothing is done to prepare in advance, a conservator could be appointed by the state, and this is a less than ideal outcome.
You could prepare for this eventuality in advance through the execution of the proper documents. If you use a revocable living trust as the core element in your estate plan, you could name a disability trustee to administer the trust in the event of your incapacity.
To account for property that is not in the trust, you can execute a durable power of attorney for property. The agent that you name in the document would be able to make decisions with regard to your personal property.
Of course, you can use this device to account for all of your property if you use a will instead of a trust. In addition to the financial part of the equation, you should address medical decision-making. This is done through the inclusion of a durable power of attorney for health care.
Many folks with Alzheimer’s disease ultimately reside in nursing homes. These facilities are exorbitantly expensive, and Medicare does not cover long-term care costs.
Medi-Cal is another jointly administered federal/state government program that will pay for a stay in a nursing home. This is a need-based benefit, so you can’t qualify if you have significant assets in your own name.
To prepare for potential long-term care costs, you could position your assets in a carefully measured matter to surrender incidents of ownership. It does take advance planning, because the gift giving has to be completed at least 30 months before you apply for Medi-Cal.
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