Alzheimer’s disease causes cognitive impairment, difficulty caring for oneself and, ultimately, death. It’s also very common. According to the National Institute on Aging, Alzheimer’s disease likely impacts more than 5.5 million Americans. The symptoms and outcomes of the disease make it necessary to consider certain estate planning issues.

Understand the Symptoms.

Alzheimer’s can strike people at different ages, but symptoms often begin during a person’s 60s. The disease is most commonly associated with memory loss and cognitive impairment. People with Alzheimer’s can also suffer from paranoia, hallucinations and poor impulse control. They may have trouble taking care of themselves. Eventually, patients experience more severe difficulties communicating and moving. There is no known cure.

According to the National Institute for on Aging, Alzheimer’s is the sixth leading cause of death in the United States, but it is believed to be the third leading cause among older people.

Often, the mild symptoms – such as becoming more forgetful – are incorrectly passed off as a normal part of aging causing many cases to be undiagnosed. However, it is important to discuss any symptoms with a doctor as soon as possible, as an early diagnosis can allow patients to manage the disease and make necessary plans.

Address Estate Planning Early.

The symptoms of Alzheimer’s can have a direct impact on estate planning. Decisions must be made regarding two key issues:

  • How will the estate be handled during the patient’s remaining years? Who will handle the important medical, legal and financial decisions if the patient is no longer able to do so?
  • What will happen to the estate after the patient’s death? Who will receive what? Will anything be donated to charity? Who will act as the executor of the estate?

Because Alzheimer’s disease causes cognitive impairment, heirs may question whether a patient was competent to make estate planning decisions. For this reason, it is essential to plan early, before the symptoms become severe. It may be necessary to secure an affidavit from a physician stating that the patient is competent to sign estate planning documents.

It’s also smart to tackle estate planning before health problems develop. Alzheimer’s is extremely common, and other health problems, such as stroke, can strike suddenly and complicate estate planning as well. Creating a solid estate plan before problems arise means that people have one less thing to worry about if a diagnosis occurs.

Share the infographic checklist below from the National Institute on Aging with your family members and friends. It will help ensure that health care and financial arrangements are in place before a serious crisis.

Families who have a loved one with Alzheimer’s should get an attorney involved as early as possible. An attorney can help interpret state laws, address the nuances of the case and make all family members feel that affairs are being managed with a fair and objective approach. To learn more, contact Skinner Law.