Why is legal planning for Alzheimer’s so important and what do families need to know?

Nearly 7 million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease. (You can find more statistics here.) This is a widespread disease that touches countless families.  While estate planning is always important, when we are planning for someone with Alzheimer’s, early planning is critical because it is a progressive disease.  Personally, I am very passionate about this planning for Alzheimer’s families because in addition to helping clients address these issues for years, my father has Alzheimer’s.  In his case, our family’s journey was made easier over the last several years because he had the proper legal and financial planning in place.

What type of planning do you recommend for individuals with Alzheimer’s?

The most important legal documents are the medical and financial durable power of attorneys.  The medical document allows a designated family member to talk with doctors, access medical records, decide on residential placement, and refuse or remove life sustaining measures.  The financial durable power of attorney allows someone to pay bills, hire caregivers, access money for medical expenses and care facilities, and invest and manage money.  Sometimes, we do add in a provision to the financial durable power of attorney that allows the designee to execute a trust or other estate planning on behalf of their loved one.  I strongly recommend that families work with an attorney who specializes in elder law because not all durable power of attorneys are the same.  You want to make sure that your loved one has the correct provisions in the documents so that you do not have to go through the court system.

If someone has a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s can they still legally sign documents?

It depends.  A diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in and of itself does not mean that someone is legally incompetent.  Since Alzheimer’s is a progressive disease, it depends on what stage that individual is in the disease.  If someone is no longer legally competent to sign documents, then we have to go through the court system and ask permission from a judge to make the medical and financial decisions through a guardianship and conservatorship.  That is why the earlier someone does the planning, the better.

What is the cost of long term care for Alzheimer’s and how do families afford it?

The cost of care can be significant.  The average cost of care for someone with dementia is $400,000. (Alzheimer’s statistics.) I strongly recommend long term care insurance for individuals to help pay for this cost.  This insurance has made a world of difference for my parents since my father purchased this insurance years before his diagnosis.  It has paid for caregivers as well as his memory care facility.  Keep in mind, not all policies are the same so make sure to get a policy that gives you coverage when you need it.  Obviously, since you need to get the insurance before your diagnosis, that is not an option for every individual.  Fortunately, there are other options.  Long term care planning or Medicaid planning can be done with the help of an elder law attorney to preserve and protect assets under the Medicaid laws. These laws do vary from from state to state, so what another family member or friend did in one state may not apply to your family.  It is critical that you work with an experienced elder law attorney because these laws are intricate and complicated.  And of course, paying for care includes working with a good financial advisor to help generate income.  Some families can use this strategy to self-insure.

What are the top three tips you would share with other families touched by Alzheimer’s?

  1.  Don’t wait to do the planning.  We have had clients in our office with a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s in their late 30s and 40s.  Everyone should make sure to have their estate planning done before they need it. This includes having “elder law” provisions before you are a senior.
  2. Work with professionals that specialize in this area.  Navigating the laws, and making sure your loved one has the proper documents, requires that you work with an elder law attorney who specializes in this and does not dabble in this area of the law.  You do not want to find out that your loved one does not have the right provisions in their documents, especially if they are no longer competent.
  3. Get support.  Geriatric care managers can help you navigate this journey which includes finding the right facility for your loved one, among many other things.  Also, the Alzheimer’s Association is an amazing resource the I encourage families to take advantage of.  My parents attended the support groups both together and individually and also attended helpful programs offered by the Alzheimer’s Association.  And finding a good therapist for both caregivers and individuals with Alzheimer’s can be extremely helpful.

Where can families go for help?

Families definitely want to work with an experienced elder law attorney.  If you or your loved one live in Michigan or Florida, we can help.  Just email at or message me here.  I also encourage families to contact the Alzheimer’s Association for support here.

Danielle Mayoras is a legal expert, author, and attorney.  She is the co-author of Trial & Heirs:  Famous Fortune Fights! and a legal media expert, and keynote speaker.  You can find her on Instagram, YouTube, and LinkedIn.  For all of the latest legal news and helpful legal tips, advice and information, be sure to check out her blog.



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    Danielle Mayoras is an on-camera legal expert, attorney, author, and keynote speaker. As a respected media source, she has lent her expertise and analysis to hundreds of media sources, including The Associated Press, Los Angeles Times, ABC News, The Wall Street Journal, Vanity Fair, People, Forbes, Kiplinger, The Washington Post, Huffington Post, among many others. She has appeared on Access Hollywood, the Rachael Ray Show, The Insider, CNN, CNN International, NBC Nightly News, Forbes, The Hallmark Channel, ABC’s Live Well Network, CBS, FOX, PBS, and NBC affiliates. Danielle also serves as a legal analyst for CBS News Detroit.

    In addition to co-authoring the best-selling book Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights!, Danielle has been a contributor to Forbes and other outlets. Danielle has also appeared as a TV host and legal expert on multiple celebrity documentaries for the REELZ Channel. When not doing media, Danielle helps clients in her thriving law firm and serves as a keynote speaker delighting audiences across the country.