Can An Alzheimer’s Patient Sign Legal Documents?

Can An Alzheimer’s Patient Sign Legal Documents?

September 21st is World Alzheimer’s day, sponsored by Alzheimer’s Disease International, to raise awareness and challenge the stigma surrounding Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia. Currently, an estimated five-million Americans have Alzheimer’s disease, yet its symptoms may be often dismissed as a natural part of aging. Did you know that, when this happens, an Alzheimer’s diagnosis can be delayed until the disease has progressed to severe cognitive impairment, which raises the question of whether an Alzheimer’s patient can sign legal documents?

Whether a person possesses the legal capacity required to execute legal documents can be a complex analysis. The legal requirements for capacity are governed by state law and vary, but generally include the following criteria:

Orientation to self and family members;
Understanding of the composition of his or her estate; and
Understanding of the legal actions he or she is taking, as well as, the possible consequences of these actions

The fact that a person is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s does not necessarily mean that legal capacity is lacking. There are various stages of dementia, and a person may meet the legal requirements of capacity, especially in the earlier stages of the disease.

Inevitably, the disease will progress, and an Alzheimer’s patient will likely have diminished legal capacity. Due to impending diminished legal capacity, it can be vital to have important financial and legal conversations early on and to execute any necessary legal documents. Legal planning can be a good way to preserve a measure of dignity for an Alzheimer’s patient facing the uncertainty of what his or her future will look like. It can be a great comfort to participate in the legal planning, and helping to ensure wishes are honored in terms of the medical care he or she receives and how his or her estate is handled, both during the illness and after death. It can also be important to do some asset protection planning in anticipation of the high medical costs associated with Alzheimer’s care and treatment.

If you or your loved one has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, contacting our office early can be a significant step to conduct legal planning before capacity is diminished. We are here to help you and your loved ones set up legal protections for what can be a difficult future. Contact us today.

Can Mom Get All of Dad’s Income? Yes! How to do It.

Can Mom Get All of Dad’s Income? Yes! How to do It.

THE BACKGROUND STORY

A few times every year, I visit with an adult child and their mother at my office. They explain that “Dad” is in a nursing home, and isn’t able to come home. They realize that the safest place for him is in a nursing home. But Mom can’t afford the $8,500.00+ monthly cost of nursing home care, and she thinks that they have too much money to get medicaid. Mom also mistakenly thinks all of Dad’s income would go to the nursing home. Needless to say, she’s scared.

Like so many others, the family believed one of many Medicaid Myths. First of all, they don’t have too much money to qualify for Florida Medicaid. Mom is allowed to have $128,640, and she has less than that. Sure, Dad’s income is too high for Florida Medicaid’s Income limit of $2,349.00, but there’s a workaround called a Qualified Income Trust.

WILL MOM GET ALL OF DAD’S INCOME?

It’s true that much of Dad’s income will go to the nursing home, at first. However, there are affordable legal steps that will help Mom get ALL of Dad’s income. With our help, Mom will likely not worry about paying bills or choosing between groceries and medications. And the best news, she can sleep comfortably knowing that her husband is safe and that she’s financially secure.

LET’S BAKE THE CAKE

Here’s how we do it. We go to Court and prove that Mom can’t live on the meager amount of Dad’s Income that Medicaid allows. We prove that Dad wants his income to go to Mom instead of the Nursing Home. Dad even has a separate lawyer to represent his interests.

As long as the numbers align (and we don’t file until they do), the Judge will grant Mom’s request that all of Dad’s income go to Mom. And Medicaid has to honor the court order. We then inform Medicaid about the Court’s decision and Viola! Mom gets the rest of Dad’s Income.

If you’d like to meet with us to discuss this subject, call 386-256-1443, text us @ 386-855-8976, or visit our contact page to send us a message. We’d love to help you.

How Can Having a Strong Power of Attorney Help You?

How Can Having a Strong Power of Attorney Help You?

Did you know that a durable power of attorney (DPOA) may be one of the most valuable estate planning moves you can make? Imagine for a moment that the power to manage your legal and financial affairs is a magic wand only you can wield. The DPOA is a tool designating an agent who is authorized to carry your magic wand for you and cast spells on your behalf. This might seem risky, but you can actually work to protect your wand by naming an agent. Let us take a look at why that can be the case:

  • Adventure, and disaster, waits for no one. From car accidents to global pandemics to dementia, your ability to manage your affairs could be impacted when you least expect it.  The durability feature of a DPOA means that the permissions you give your agent will stay in place even if you are incapacitated to the point where you are unable to communicate. 
  • Only those who are worthy should carry your wand. When it comes to choosing an agent, consider who you believe has the skills, bandwidth, and good intentions to look after your affairs. The DPOA may grant broad powers to act on your behalf.  This means the agent may be authorized to manage your finances and conduct your business in addition to any tasks specifically outlined. It may not always be easy to know who is worthy.  If you change your mind later and would like to replace the agent on your DPOA, you can do so by drafting a new DPOA and revoking the previous one.
  • Keep your wand powerful and out of the wrong hands. There may be people who disagree with your choice of agent and will try to cast doubt on the validity of your DPOA.  This could weaken your agent’s ability to manage your affairs. Court filings to prove your DPOA valid may involve expense, delays, and stress.  A court may appoint a new agent where your wand gets passed to someone the court deems trustworthy, but who you know to be an evil witch or wizard.  Avoid creating opportunities for troublemakers by working with a licensed estate-planning attorney to make your DPOA as strong as possible.  

As you can see, there can be extensive benefits to having a strong DPOA in place. For help establishing a durable power of attorney, please contact our office to schedule an appointment.

Six Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents

Six Questions to Ask Your Aging Parents

When we were younger, our parents tried to help us plan for the future to protect our best interests. Now, the time may have come, if you have an aging parent, to assist them in making plans for the future as well. Where do you start? Even though there may be a lot of uncomfortable questions that you have to ask, we have gathered six of the important ones for you to begin this difficult conversation. We hope that these help you and your parents to understand the needs of proper estate planning.

  1. Do they have a health care surrogate in place?

This may be one of the most important questions to ask.  You want to ensure that they may be properly taken care of should they become seriously ill. Having a health care surrogate in place, your parents can empower a trusted individual to make health care decisions on their behalf should they ever become incapacitated. The decision of who to appoint should not be taken lightly. Try to ensure the person that they have chosen is responsible and, of course, is of sound mind.

  1. Where are the original estate planning documents kept?

If the time arrives when your parent becomes incapacitated or dies, do you know where the original estate planning documents are? The original documents can be necessary and, also, required to commence probate. In fact, if you do not have the original, it may be very difficult to probate the estate according to the terms of the missing will.

  1. Are your parents’ estate planning documents up-to-date?

To be most effective, an estate plan should remain up-to-date. Estate plans should reflect current living circumstances and major life events. This means that your parents should take the time to periodically review their estate plans for accuracy. It can be especially important to review and update estate plans after major life events such as a birth or a death in the family.

  1. Have your parents chosen trusted decision-makers?

Talk to your parents about the people they have appointed in their estate planning documents. This could refer to a power of attorney agent, a health care surrogate, or a personal representative. All of these positions put the selected individual in an important position that should not be taken lightly. Help your parents reflect on their selections to make sure they have selected trustworthy individuals who are properly equipped to handle the responsibilities before them.

  1. If your parents have a trust, is it properly funded?

If not, it could mean a long and expensive probate before you can have access to their assets. To understand it a little better, remember that funding a trust means taking assets that are titled in the individual settlor’s name and retitling them into the name of the settlor’s trust.

  1. Is your parent working with an attorney they trust?

An estate planning attorney is tasked with the critical job of helping to ensure that estate plans are properly drafted and accurately reflect the needs and wishes of those establishing them. Talk to your parents about the estate planning attorney they have worked with or are working with to help ensure that they are both confident and comfortable with their selection. 

For more information on important estate planning questions that should be addressed, our office is here to provide you with much needed answers. Get in touch with us today to schedule a meeting.

Tips for Seniors in Preparation for Hurricane Season

Tips for Seniors in Preparation for Hurricane Season

As storm season approaches, the safety of our senior loved ones is a high priority. Have you considered the importance of the actions we take now to prepare for evacuating in the time of COVID-19? Let us review our hurricane preparedness checklist to help you anticipate an evacuation or emergency that might arise in the wake of a catastrophic storm. 

1. Appoint a Check-In Person. With power outages likely and access to essential services potentially cut off, it can be critical to have an able-bodied person checking in periodically to ensure you or your loved one has everything they need. Preferably, it should be someone who lives nearby and can provide support if evacuation orders are issued. Your check-in person should have a list of important numbers, including close relatives and doctors, to relay information if needed. 

 2. Prepare an Emergency Kit. Your hurricane kit should be assembled and placed into a sealable, water-tight tub to keep items dry and safe. Keep your kit close at hand, up off the floor, and easily accessible so you can just grab and go. Here is a list of items you should include in your storm emergency kit:

  •     Flashlight and plenty of batteries
  •     Battery or crank-operated radio
  •     Blanket
  •     Face masks, disposable gloves, and hand sanitizer
  •     List of emergency contact numbers
  •     A couple of changes of clothes, socks, and shoes
  •     Toiletries
  •     Fully stocked first aid kit
  •     At least three days’ worth of medication and pharmacy contact info
  •     Extra emergency medications like inhalers if needed
  •     Cell phone charger
  •     An additional mobile phone, in case the primary phone is damaged by water
  •     Hearing aid batteries, if needed
  •     Extra pair of glasses, if needed
  •     A little bit of cash
  •     Important documents, such as identification and medical alert info
  •     Medical devices, such as diabetic or CPAP supplies, as needed
  •     Protein bars, almonds, or other high-nutrient snacks

 3. Stock up on non-perishable foods. Fill a cupboard with canned goods and other non-perishable food items. Be sure you have a manual can opener too. Lay in a supply of bottled water. A good rule of thumb is one gallon per person or pet for every three days. If you have a pet, purchase extra food and other essential supplies for them as well. 

Being prepared in an emergency will help you and your loved ones weather the storm without undue worry. If you have concerns about a vulnerable senior in your life, reach out to them to find out how you can help them stay safe during hurricane season. For more information on how you can prepare for hurricane season, and related legal matters, please feel free to give our office a call.