Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease almost always have life-changing repercussions. Even when these illnesses progress slowly, seeing a spouse struggle to recognize the faces of friends and family and remember what they’re doing can be as frustrating as it is heartbreaking. However, the consequences of a diagnosis often extend beyond routine complications and everyday difficulties. DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., has spent decades helping Floridians protect themselves from uncertainty. If your spouse has Alzheimer’s disease, our experienced Sun City Center elder law attorney can help you explore the options to preserve your health and your wealth.
The Importance of Being Proactive if Your Spouse Has Alzheimer's Disease
Both dementia and Alzheimer’s disease are progressive illnesses, with symptoms growing worse over time. While it could take years, there may eventually come a point where your spouse is unable to make legal and medical decisions by themselves.
Florida law presumes that most people have the legal capacity to make important decisions about their own estate. However, this capacity is often conditioned, with prospective trustors and testators expected to meet certain criteria. Anyone wishing to write a will, for instance, should be at least 18 years of age. They must also be of “sound mind,” meaning that they have the testamentary capacity to understand the risks, benefits, and effects of signing a will or nominating an executor.
If your spouse has already been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, they may still have the mental capacity necessary to write a will or establish a trust. However, as their disease progresses, their circumstances could change, and they may no longer appreciate the consequences of nominating beneficiaries or changing heirs.
Without an adequate estate plan, you might be unable to help your partner make important medical decisions—and a Florida probate court may not respect their last wishes.
3 Ways Our Elder Law Attorneys Can Help Protect Your Spouse (and Family)
Spouses are often accorded some measure of privilege in directing the care of an incapacitated spouse, or in receiving assets from an intestate succession. However, absent an estate plan, surviving husbands and wives may be put to the mercy of a court—a court that may strive to protect a family’s best interests, but which could be bound by the limits of law and code.
If your spouse was recently diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease, dementia, or another neurodegenerative disorder, our elder law attorney suggests the following steps to begin securing your family’s future.
Establish an Estate Plan
Almost everybody appreciates the necessity of having an estate plan. Nevertheless, few Americans—including many past retirement age—ever get around to writing a will or funding a trust.
However, a will is the only way to ensure your last wishes are respected by a Florida probate court. If your spouse has Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, they may still have years left to live—but far fewer to comply with state requirements dictating that a testator be of sound mind. If you wait too long to start exploring your estate planning opportunities, any estate plan you and your spouse make could be compromised by a bad-faith creditor contest or another unexpected challenge.
Delegate Powers of Attorney
Older adults with neurodegenerative diseases face unique risks. As their condition worsens, they may find it more difficult to manage their health and finances. This often creates significant complications, both for adults with Alzheimer’s and their spouses.
Delegating certain powers of attorney eases the difficulty of making critical decisions. The durable power of attorney, for instance, assigns financial authority to an agent-in-fact, who can assist in paying bills, buying groceries, or managing an investment account. Similarly, a health care power of attorney lets a spouse or other individual make medical decisions in accordance with the principal’s preferences.
Anticipate Financial Aid
People with Alzheimer’s and dementia may eventually need medical care beyond what even a dedicated spouse and loving family can provide. Unfortunately, with the high costs of health care only continuing to rise, few Floridians can afford to pay out-of-pocket for a home health aide or an assisted living facility.
While Florida Medicaid can help alleviate assisted living costs, eligibility is contingent on income. Since Florida’s Medicaid income limits are very low, applicants could soon be in a difficult position—unable to pay for care alone, but with too many assets to qualify for public benefits.
DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, P.A., could help you reconfigure your estate plan to account for the possibility of incapacity due to Alzheimer’s disease, ensuring that your spouse gets the care they need and in time, your heirs receive the inheritances you wish. You can even protect assets within the five-year Medicaid look-back period.
Work With Our Sun City Center Elder Law Attorney
If you’re not sure where to turn after a loved one’s care needs have changed, our elder law attorney in Sun City Center can help you navigate the road ahead. Simply fill out our quick contact form by clicking the button below or by calling DeLoach, Hofstra & Cavonis, PA, at 727-777-6842 to set up a consultation.