New Study Shows Younger Individuals May Be Affected By Alzheimer’s

A recent study in the New England Journal of Medicine reports that an Alzheimer’s gene may impair middle-aged memory.  According to the study, people with a variant of the APOE gene, which increases the risk of Alzheimer’s in old age, may also show memory impairment earlier than researchers once thought.  Researchers followed 815 people ages 21-97 with normal mental function.  On the Auditory-Verbal learning test, a test of a person’s ability to learn and remember, carriers of the APOE gene showed declines beginning in their 50’s.  Non-carriers of the gene did not show declines in memory until their 70’s.  The results of this study emphasize just how important preemptive estate planning is.

What Is Elder Law?

Elder law is an area of law that encompasses any legal issue facing the elderly.  It is often associated with estate planning but can involve much broader social, economic and health related difficulties facing aging Americans. Some of the concerns that become more important to us as we grow older and may require more careful planning include:

  • estate planning
  • planning for a long term medical care requirement including Medicaid planning
  • planning for incapacitation with the use of durable powers of attorney and health care proxies
  • issues requiring guardianships and conservatorships
  • elder abuse and other issues involving nursing homes or skilled nursing facilities
  • SSI, SSDI and other government benefit programs
  • special needs trusts

As the elderly population grows each year, so will the issues facing these individuals requiring a comprehensive estate plan that addresses long term care needs.  Often times, planning  must take into account strategies involving financial planning, estate planning, and other asset protection techniques.  Other times ancillary issues involving home health care, skilled nursing facilities, long term care insurance and disability benefits must be addressed.  Elder law attorneys, geriatric or nurse case managers, financial planners and professional well versed in benefits planning are often involved to ensure all needs are met.  Advanced planning can help to minimize the problems and stress associated with these issues.

Do I Need A Will?

I get this question quite often. Family members and friends falsely assume that estate planning is for the “rich”. They think that they are too young to need a Will or they don’t have enough money to worry about planning. I explain that sometimes the headaches associated with a lack of planning usually have nothing to do with the size of a persons estate. Unfortunately, it takes the death of a loved one, an extended stay in a nursing home or a custody battle over a child to realize how crucial planning can be for young and old, rich and not so rich.

BASIC ESTATE PLANNING WILL GUIDE OTHERS IN MAKING DECISIONS

Even the simplest of estates require basic documents to ensure your affairs are in order. These documents will allow the persons you nominate to manage your estate if you are unable to make decisions for yourself and an executor to distribute your estate according to your wishes after death. If you die without a Will (also referred to as intestate), your estate will be distributed according to the laws of your domicile.

The following documents are a good starting point to give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected should anything happen:

  • Will – A Will is a legal document that gives instructions to be followed after your death. Your Will allows you to name your beneficiaries, a guardian for your children, as well as an executor to manage and distribute your estate after death. Note: Not all assets will be distributed according to the provisions in your Will. Certain assets that have their own beneficiary designation will pass outside of the probate process according to beneficiaries you have chosen. Some examples of assets that will bypass the probate process are living trusts, life insurance, assets held as joint tenants with right of survivorship, payable-on-death accounts, and retirement accounts.
  • Durable Power of Attorney – A durable power of attorney allows you to name someone to manage your financial affairs should you become incapacitated and not be able to make decisions on your behalf.
  • Health Care Proxy – A health care proxy is similar to a durable power of attorney. Your health care proxy allows you to name someone to make health care decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and cannot make decisions for yourself.

Failing to plan could force others, including the Probate Court, to make these crucial and often emotional decisions for you. Others may or may not, for whatever reason, make the same decisions you would have. Taking these basic steps will give you the peace of mind that your wishes will be respected. Please contact us if you would like more information or would like to schedule a consultation.