Dear Attorney Tully: I am afraid my husband might have Alzheimerâ€™s because there is a family history of it. Iâ€™m wondering what I should do? All my friends tell me I have to see an elder law attorney to protect myself. This sounds complicated - when should I start?
Answer: The key is to make sure all estate planning documents are in place and to make plans to protect your assets as soon as Alzheimerâ€™s or even mild memory loss is expected. Family members should consult with an experienced Alzheimerâ€™s planning attorney to evaluate their situation.
The family should bring to the appointment important documents for the attorney to review, such as any Powers of Attorney, Trusts or Wills. The family should also bring any documents related to the loved oneâ€™s assets. The attorney can evaluate the information and provide guidance as to the appropriate steps to be taken. Acting now can often avoid costly intrusive court proceeds at a later date.
Frequently asked questions
Q. If something happens to me, the well spouse, can someone else make health care decision for my spouse with Alzheimerâ€™s?
A. Yes, someone else can make health care decisions if your spouse has given someone authority under a Health Care Representative (HCR). Many times a person will also name a Successor Health Care Representative in the HCR document. If no one is designated under a HCR, then the Court may have to appoint a Conservator of the person for the spouse with Alzheimerâ€™s.
Q. What if our children disagree with our health care choices?
A. As long as you have the capacity to make your own decisions, your children to not have the right to take that control away from you, regardless of whether or not they agree with your decisions.
Q: Once I qualify for Medicaid, will the quality of care I receive be sub-standard?
A: No. It is illegal for a facility to discriminate against someone receiving Medicaid benefits. By law, Medicaid patients are to receive the same level of care as private-pay residents.
Q: Is a married couple always required to spend down one-half of their assets before qualifying for Medicaid?
A: Not always. In fact, quite often couples have over $100,000 and qualify for Medicaid benefits without spending a penny. Although there are income and asset criteria a couple must meet before one of them qualifies for benefits, federal and state laws were written to protect individuals from becoming impoverished if their spouse needs a nursing home.
Medicaid planning is like tax planning in that legislation has provided legal exceptions to the general rules that, with good advice from a knowledgeable elder law attorney, can save Medicaid applicants and their families thousands of dollars.
Attorney Daniel O. Tully is a partner in the law firm of Kilbourne & Tully, P.C., members of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys Inc., with offices at 120 Laurel St., Bristol (860) 583-1341.