As we age, most of us fear being diagnosed with an Alzheimer’s related disease. While this is a fear that most of us live with, there is another concern for those who have a spouse – what to do if your spouse develops the disease? A spouse of an Alzheimer’s sufferer must make some fairly important and difficult decisions and changes early on in order to protect both the patient and the spouse.
Early on, there are legal concerns that must be addressed. If your spouse already has an extensive estate plan that includes a thorough incapacity plan, then you may not need to change much, if anything. Unfortunately, many people do not have an incapacity plan. For this reason, it is critical that you and your spouse sit down immediately with your estate planning attorney to discuss what legal documents should be executed to handle future medical, financial and property decisions that will come up. Waiting too long will result in the need to depend on a court to give you decision making authority if your spouse is no longer mentally competent to execute the necessary legal documents.
Along with creating an incapacity plan, you may wish to discuss Medicaid (or Medical Assistance) planning with your estate planning attorney. The long-term costs of caring for an Alzheimer’s patient can be exorbitant. By carefully planning ahead you may be able to protect your hard earned assets while still qualifying your spouse for assistance through the Medicaid program. Again, without planning ahead, you could be forced to use your life savings and sell many of your assets before qualifying for any assistance.