According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are living with it, and one in eight older Americans is afflicted with the progressive, incurable disease. The association says that the first step when a diagnosis is made is for family members to assess the patients’ assets: Social Security and pensions, bank accounts and IRAs, real estate and life insurance policies.
When the patient is no longer able to manage his or her finances, a relative or other trusted individual should have an enhanced durable financial power of attorney and/or be designated as disability trustee to make sure they are properly cared for. One or two page “fill in the blank” powers of attorney often don’t work when they are needed, so see an Elder Law attorney to obtain a comprehensive document.
The Alzheimer’s association says ( http://tinyurl.com/965uhtl) the caregiver can become a “representative payee” with access to their benefit checks. This option is available from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Railroad Retirement Board, the group says.
Although another option is a joint bank account for the patient and his caregiver, this option is not normally advised for a number of reasons. Patients and caregivers should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law to help make the right decision.
Finally, setting up a living trust might be best for the patient, whether revocable or irrevocable. Only irrevocable trusts, the Alzheimer’s Association says, protect the patient’s assets in case he needs long-term care.
Loss of Control
In many cases, the patient has spent a lifetime managing his finances, and giving up that control can be the hardest thing to do. A Reuters story (http://tinyurl.com/9fgd8ae) gives tips on how family members can deal with elderly relatives and their finances.
Basically, they all boil down being diplomatic and acting before it’s too late to have any legal say in the patient’s financial well-being.
In the case of the patient’s investment accounts, the story says, use even more finesse because the stakes are higher.
The family shouldn’t tell the patient they don’t think he is capable of buying and selling responsibly, but rather “tell them you admire their long history of smart investing and would like to learn from” him. Family members should ask, the story says, to attend meetings with the patient’s investment adviser.
Ripe for the Picking
Alzheimer’s disease patients are often easy prey for scam artists – a cursory Internet search brings up dozens of such cases – and without sound financial and legal planning, the patient could fall victim, too. According to the Reuters story, more elderly people are ripped off by relatives than are scammed by professional advisors.
We hope this information was useful to you and helps Alzheimer’s patients and their families. If you have a specific case or a question, don’t hesitate to call our office. As always, feel free to call us for further advice or to share your ideas.