DIMENSIONS Autumn 2004

Plan Now for Legal Issues Later

Each issue of Dimensions features an article contributed from an Alzheimer’s related group in Washington State. This article is contributed and reprinted with permission of the Alzheimer's Association-Inland NW Chapter.

If you’re a loved one of a person with Alzheimer’s, you’re faced with another challenge: determining whether the person has the capacity to execute these documents. It’s important to work with your health-care professional to understand the level of capacity held by the diagnosed person prior to consulting an attorney.

You may want to contact a legal firm that specializes in elder law or an attorney with expertise in estate planning.

Here are some terms and explanations:

Durable power of attorney enables you to authorize an agent (usually a trusted family member or friend) to make legal and financial decisions for you when you no longer can make them on your own. The term durable means that this agent can act on your behalf.

Living trust allows you to create a trust and to appoint someone as trustee (usually a trusted individual or bank) to carefully invest and manage your assets. There are tax advantages to a living trust that make it an attractive tool, especially for someone with substantial assets.

A will is a document that names an executor (the person who will manage your estate) and beneficiaries (those who will receive the estate at the time of your death). It applies to matters after one’s death, usually in relation to distribution of assets and has no influence over decisions in one’s lifetime.

A living will states your choices for future medical care decisions, including the use of artificial life-support systems. You have the legal right to limit or forgo medical or life-sustaining treatment, including the use of mechanical ventilators, cardiopulmonary resuscitation, antibiotics, feeding tubes and artificial hydration. A living will applies to end-of-life decisions only and is invoked when a person has less than a six-month life span.

Durable power of attorney for health care and property is intended to serve the interests of a disabled person who can no longer make decisions regarding heath care and financial affairs. It allows you to appoint an agent (usually a trusted family member) to make all decisions regarding health care. These decisions may be about health care providers, medical treatment and end-of-life decisions.

For more information on this topic, the Alzheimer’s Association offers these resources: "Steps to Understanding Legal Issues: Planning for the Future" and "Taxes and Alzheimer’s Disease."

This information is provided as a service and does not constitute legal advice. Please consult a professional, such as an attorney or financial advisor. To conact the Alzheimer’s Association In Western & Central Washington please call (800) 848-7097 and in Eastern Washington or North Idaho call (800) 256-6659.

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