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Alzheimer's diagnosis increases urgency of estate planning

November marks National Alzheimer's Disease Awareness Month to remind people of the prevalence of the disease and how to prepare for mental incapacity. Alzheimer's and dementia occur frequently among people in Florida and nationwide. According to the Alzheimer's Association, one in eight people will fall victim to the disease that erodes a person's mental abilities. Although estate planning benefits anyone, the need to make arrangements concerning a mental decline becomes very urgent once someone receives a dementia diagnosis. In the early stages of Alzheimer's, people usually still have the capacity to make decisions about their health care and estate.

People who are dealing with Alzheimer's could prepare a property management plan that describes how to distribute their property as the disease progresses. A person could assign a trusted family member or financial professional to manage this plan that could spare relatives the need to deal with a probate court at a later time.

Collecting and organizing legal and financial documents are vital tasks to accomplish as soon as possible. These documents should be kept together in a safe or safe deposit box that an estate manager can access. The assembled documents should include a valid power of attorney and advanced health care directive that specifies a person's wishes regarding medical care and resuscitation efforts at the end of life. The advanced directive will assign someone to make medical decisions after the person becomes incapacitated.

Someone concerned about Alzheimer's and dementia could investigate his or her estate planning options by talking to an attorney. Legal advice might reveal strategies for preserving assets or transferring them privately to heirs. A lawyer could guide a person through setting up a living will or choosing a health proxy. Once the person makes the necessary decisions, an attorney could draft all the necessary documents.

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