Some people find it difficult to confront this subject, but it is very possible that there is going to be a period of time that precedes your death during which you may not have complete control of your faculties. We all know that anything is possible, accidents strike, and illnesses sometimes befall us. This being stated, the threat of dementia due to the onset of Alzheimer’s disease is considerably more likely than you may realize. This is why it may be a good idea to take incapacity planning very seriously and make it a part of your overall estate plan.
Just how ubiquitous is Alzheimer’s disease in the United States today? Many people are stunned when they hear that one in eight senior citizens are stricken by Alzheimer’s (that’s 13%). As you might expect, as you get older, the likelihood of contracting Alzheimer’s disease increases considerably. People who are at least 85 years of age, who are termed the “oldest old,” are the fastest growing segment of the American population. It is estimated that somewhere in the vicinity of half of all people who reach this age are suffering from some form of dementia, and at least 40 percent of them have Alzheimer’s disease.
The average life expectancy in the United States is about 79 years, so when you combine all of these statistics, you can see that it is no stretch to say that you may very well contract Alzheimer’s disease at some point in your life.
Should you join the growing ranks of Alzheimer’s sufferers, it will be difficult to impossible for you to make truly sound financial and personal decisions. Addressing this possibility is what incapacity planning it is all about, and it involves the execution of durable powers of attorney.
With a durable health care power of attorney, you name someone to make medical decisions on your behalf in the event of your incapacitation. A durable financial power of attorney can be added to empower a representative to handle your financial affairs.
Elder Financial Abuse
One of the issues that is a matter of great concern among estate planning attorneys and elder law specialists is that of elder financial abuse. Studies that have been conducted by the MetLife Mature Market Institute, the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse, the National Center on Elder Abuse and others paint a very grim picture. It is estimated that some $2.6 billion is lost each and every year due to instances of elder abuse. However, this figure may be much higher, and this is because of the identity of the typical perpetrators.
In the majority of cases of elder financial abuse the abuser is either a family member, a caregiver, or a professional adviser that is trusted by the victim. So the fact is that a majority of the cases of elder financial abuse are probably never reported, and there are three primary reasons for this.
The first one would be in cases when the victim knows that he or she has been taken advantage of but wants to protect a family member or “friend” from prosecution. The second would be when the elder who has been abused is embarrassed and doesn’t want to report the incident out of a sense of shame. And the third type of unreported case would be when the elder simply does not realize that he or she has been or is continually being financially abused.
There are no cut and dried easy answers that will cure this epidemic in one fell swoop, but you do want to be proactive. Recognize the fact that the problem exists and accept the fact that reduced mental faculties are a reality of aging. You may then want to schedule a consultation with our firm and convey your desire to protect yourself from elder financial abuse using whatever legal means that may be available to you.
Attend a Free Seminar!
To learn more about these and other important elder law topics, attend one of our upcoming seminars. They are being offered absolutely free of charge at the present time, and you will learn a lot if you attend the session that fits into your schedule. To get all the details, visit our seminar page.