Progressively debilitating brain diseases, like Alzheimers, require courage—and advance planning. Though estate planning is important for everyone, it is especially important for those coping with Alzheimers and other forms of dementia to act decisively while capable of doing so. Lawyers offer this advice to jumpstart action.
Preparing for Incremental Loss
One of the most difficult aspects of coping with Alzheimers and other brain disease is the incremental loss of capacity—and the anxiousness of never knowing how tomorrow, next month or next year will find us. Though excruciating to receive a diagnosis of dementia, when families have the gift of time, it’s best to put essential aspects of an estate plan in place accordingly, as soon as possible. Organizing support, and making decisions about care and funds while we are still relatively clear thinking and independent, ensures that our preferences and hopes can be addressed by those who care about us—and will become responsible for us. As experts at Tucker Allen explain, advance planning can help prevent the necessity of court intervention later: “Once these diseases reach the stage where a person cannot remember their family members or understand their assets and important documents, they are not able to create or modify an existing estate plan. At that point, the only option is for the family members to file a guardianship.”
Working with a lawyer to establish a revocable trust is a very useful step to take when declines in capacity are anticipated: “This is a type of trust that addresses the management of finances and assets while an individual is still living. The document gives instructions regarding the person’s estate and appoints a trustee to hold titles to property and money on their behalf. This enables the trustee to pay bills and make other financial and property decisions once a person can no longer manage their own affairs.”
Trustees and Trustee Bonds?
When creating a trust, you (the grantor) name a trustee to administer the assets in accordance with the plans specified in the trust agreement. When families choose trustees and successor trustees, they typically designate loved ones or friends. An independent fiduciary is also an option. Keep in mind that the trustee role requires serious commitment—it is not an honorary title. All trustees are fiduciaries: they are legally bound to the highest duty of care in executing their responsibilities. In fact, given the significant duties undertaken by trustees, the trust agreement may require procurement of a trustee bond.
A trustee bond is a type of fiduciary bond that protects the interests of the trust and beneficiaries by guaranteeing the faithful performance of a trustee in accordance with the law. As a leading national provider of many types of fiduciary bonds, Colonial Surety makes it easy and efficient to obtain a trustee bond. Just get a quote online, fill out the information, and enter a payment method. The bond can be printed or e-filed in minutes, from anywhere.
Important to Know—and Do
Health Care Power of Attorney
This designates an individual, often referred to as an “agent,” to make health care decisions on someone’s behalf should the individual become incapacitated. This document is commonly referred to as a “health care proxy.” It enables the agent to make decisions and communicate to doctors and health care providers on behalf of the grantor of the power.
Do Not Resuscitate Order
A DNR instructs health care professionals to forego performing CPR if an individual’s heart stops or if they stop breathing. A DNR must be signed by a doctor and placed in a person’s medical chart. Functionally, a DNR is very similar to a healthcare directive, but there are subtle differences.
A living will spells out end-of-life wishes for medical treatment or if the individual is incapacitated and can no longer make decisions regarding emergency treatment.
Cost of Care: Consider An Irrevocable Trust
As we live longer and more complex lives, income and assets, though not excessive, can still exceed eligibility guidelines for public support. The cost of care, whether at home or in a facility, adds up. For some families, establishing an irrevocable trust can be beneficial, as Kiplinger explains:
Disabled beneficiaries on Medicaid and Supplemental Security Income have stringent income and asset limitations — if they own or receive too much money they can lose these government benefits. Irrevocable trusts can shelter income and assets, so these limits are not exceeded. The Trustee of these “Medicaid trusts” can never be the Creator. Just like estate tax savings trusts, the Beneficiary has been divested of substantial control over the trust, so the government benefits continue to be provided, because the trust funds are not included as the Beneficiary’s own assets and income.
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Founded in 1930, Colonial Surety Company is a direct writer of surety bonds and insurance products. Colonial is rated “A Excellent” by A.M. Best Company, U.S. Treasury listed, and licensed for business everywhere in the USA.