Alzheimer’s disease, and the demands it places on a caregiver’s time and energy, can devastate a family’s emotional resources. It can devastate the family’s bank account, too.
According to the Alzheimer’s Association, 5.4 million Americans are living with it, and one in eight older Americans is afflicted with the progressive, incurable disease. The association says that the first step when a diagnosis is made is to assess your clients’ assets: Social Security and pensions, bank accounts and IRAs, real estate and life insurance policies.
When your client is no longer able to manage his or her finances, a relative or other trusted individual should have durable power of attorney to make sure your client is properly cared for.
The Alzheimer’s association says (http://tinyurl.com/965uhtl) your client’s caregiver can become a “representative payee” with access to your client’s benefit checks. This option is available from the Social Security Administration, the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Railroad Retirement Board, the group says.
Another option is a joint bank account for your client and his caregiver, although this might complicate applying for Medicaid or other benefits. Clients should consult an attorney who specializes in elder law to help make the right decision.
Finally, setting up a living trust might be best for your client, whether revocable or irrevocable. Only irrevocable trusts, the Alzheimer’s Association says, protect your client’s assets in case he needs long-term care.
Loss of Control
In many cases, your client has spent a lifetime managing his finances, and giving up that control can be the hardest thing to do. A Reuters story (http://tinyurl.com/9fgd8ae) gives tips on how family members can deal with elderly relatives and their finances.
Basically, they all boil down being diplomatic and acting before it’s too late to have any legal say in your client’s financial well-being.
In the case of your client’s investment accounts, the story says, use even more finesse because the stakes are higher. The family shouldn’t tell your client they don’t think he is capable of buying and selling responsibly, but rather “tell them you admire their long history of smart investing and would like to learn from” him. Family members should ask, the story says, to attend meetings with your client’s investment adviser.
Ripe for the Picking
Alzheimer’s disease patients are often easy prey for scam artists — a cursory Internet search brings up dozens of such cases — and without sound financial and legal planning, your client could fall victim, too. According to the Reuters story, more elderly people are ripped off by relatives than are scammed by professional advisors.
As your client’s financial representative, you can be the last line of defense for your client.
We hope this information was useful to you and helps your clients and their families. If you have a specific case or a question, don’t hesitate to call our office. As always, feel free to call us for further advice or to share your ideas.
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