Creating a Last Will and Testament to Care for a Loved One
I hate to be the one to break it to you, but if you hadn’t already gathered from the evening news, we live in a dangerous and wicked world. While it may take a village to raise our kids, and for our purposes, to care for those with dementia, how do we know which village or community of individuals to trust?
Can you trust your neighbors? Can you trust the people in the facility where your loved one with Alzheimer’s has been placed? If you fall ill or worse, what would happen to them? Who would step into your caregiving shoes?
That last question is especially crucial. A written will can help to quell fears that accompany the unknown.
Draw up a will
Planning for our children’s future is a no-brainer, but it’s equally important to create a will to protect an elderly parent or spouse who has Alzheimer’s disease. Speak with an attorney and outline a plan that will see your loved one into a future in which you’re no longer present.
Dying without a will leaves your loved one unprotected, as the state where you live would have the last say regarding your property. The state would decide how to distribute your personal property. A will gives a voice to your wishes so that assets are divided and distributed according to your desires.
Hire an estate attorney
A written will ensures that your wishes are carried out legally. It’s wise to hire an attorney who specializes in estate planning. The job of an estate attorney differs from that of someone specializing in elder law. An estate law attorney recognizes and represents your wishes post-death. An elder law attorney executes your desires regarding finances and income while you’re still living.
Specify in your will how gifts and trusts will be arranged and who will manage those trusts. Include funeral arrangements and how you choose to be buried, and above all, arrange care for your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease.
You choose the executor of a written will. The executor can be anyone you prefer, as long as they’re willing to take on the responsibility of ensuring that the will is performed as written.
By the way, a will is only valid if it is written. It can even be handwritten, as long as two independent witnesses without vested interest sign it.
Most states also require that a will be notarized. Verbally bequeathing assets to a beneficiary isn’t binding by law and is easily contested. A will secures your wishes and can prevent family members from having to make decisions that could cause suspicion or rifts.
Hire an elder law attorney
If your loved one is in the early stages of Alzheimer’s disease and is still able to make sound decisions, they should also have a will created. This allows them to control assets, perhaps turning them over to defray caregiving costs down the road.
The will should also include instructions regarding care and advance health directives. An advance directive outlines the patient’s healthcare wishes when they’re no longer able to make their own health choices.
A durable power of attorney should be chosen at this time, while your loved one is of sound mind. Wishes are recorded in a living will and relate the patient’s end-of-life choices regarding medical treatment, which could include coma, permanent unconsciousness, or if the person is pronounced “brain dead.”
Be careful when drawing up a living will. Last directives don’t always mean that the person making the will chooses not to have treatment. It will, however, determine how much and what type of treatment to be administered. Be very careful with terminology, as family members have been known to interpret wishes differently.
A living will should be direct and explanatory. Discuss your wishes with an attorney and choose words carefully. For instance, if the living will includes a do not resuscitate order, be very clear about the conditions surrounding that decision. A choking instance, where the patient falls unconscious, won’t incur the same medical decision perhaps as if a patient is deemed permanently unconscious.
Power of attorney
If you fear that your wishes may be misinterpreted regarding a do not resuscitate order or other medical instructions included in the living will, you may consider choosing a durable power of attorney for healthcare. In fact, it’s a great idea, and separate from end-of-life directives.
Choose someone who understands your wishes and is willing and strong enough to carry them out. You’re giving that person the authority to make healthcare decisions on your behalf. A durable power of attorney may also direct your finances and mange financial affairs.
A living trust includes instructions regarding estate. A trustee is appointed to manage property and to oversee funds to be distributed to beneficiaries. The trustee manages affairs for you or your loved one with Alzheimer’s disease. Sometimes, the trustee is also named the person who makes your healthcare decisions, acting as a proxy.
The above information is not definitive. Speak with your attorney for advice regarding specifics that apply to you and your loved one.
Don’t leave your future, or especially your loved one’s future, to chance. Discussing end of life, death, and finances can be uncomfortable, but failing to make decisions on this side of illness or death is opening the door for someone else to make those decisions. Who do we trust to come alongside us and to look after the aged, the infirmed, and the helpless?
It takes a village. Build one you can trust.
Note: Alzheimer’s News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of Alzheimer’s News Today or its parent company, BioNews, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to Alzheimer’s disease.