aging issues

A Dementia Diagnosis and Your Financial Plan

dementia diagnosis and your financial plan

The inevitable has happened. You or someone you love has received the dreaded diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease or one of many related dementias. You feel like your world is in a tail spin; you don’t know which end is up, and you certainly don’t know where to start planning…especially from a financial perspective. What should you do?

First, discuss the diagnosis with your financial advisor. Communicate your fears and concerns, and ask for help to make sure that all of your financial “ducks” are in row.

You can check these things off the list now:

  • Make sure that important documents are in place assigning advocates who will handle health care and financial affairs when you (or your loved one) are unable to handle them. **Coordinate this with your estate planning attorney.

  • Also, make sure that beneficiaries and estate planning documents are updated to reflect current wishes.

  • From an organizational standpoint, this is a perfect time to make sure everything is organized, documented (see our Personal Financial Record Keeping Document for help), simplified as much as possible (think consolidating accounts held by multiple firms), and titled properly.

At some point, your financial advisor may want to help you look at additional retirement/financial independence scenarios that include long-term care expenses faced by those who have dementia/Alzheimer’s. This will give you the opportunity to look at the adjustments you may need to make immediately or in the near term.

As time goes on and costs increase, which may be a few months or years depending on disease progression, additional retirement distribution planning may both stretch available dollars and strategize tax efficiencies based on tax law at the time. For instance, in years with very high medical costs/deductions, it may make sense to take distributions from IRAs, so the medical deductions offset the taxable income from the distributions.

It is also extremely important to review all insurances (Long Term Care, life insurances with terminal illness or LTC riders, annuities with such riders, etc.) to understand how they work and how they may benefit you in the future.

Planning with your family

Aside from the purely financial considerations, it is critical to have a conversation with your family about your care (who, where, etc.), your money, your quality of life, and the overall plan for your last phase of life with your new diagnosis, so that everyone is on the same page, with a coordinated plan.

Everyone should know the available resources, the players, and your desires. Having helped families in these situations, I know those who work together and understand the desires of their loved one, no matter what the financial situation, are able to get through tough times and support their loved one much more successfully than those who don’t.

Above all, ask for help, from your advisors, from your family, from your friends and community supports (church, community groups, etc.). You can’t, and shouldn’t, go it alone. If you or someone you know is facing a dementia challenge and needs to plan, please let us know. We are here to help.

Sandra Adams, CFP®, CeFT™ is a Partner and CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ professional at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® She specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and serves as a trusted source for national publications, including The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine, and Journal of Financial Planning.

Raymond James does not provide tax or legal services. Please discuss these matters with the appropriate professional.

When It Might Make Sense to Distribute an IRA Account

Sandy Adams Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®


As you might imagine, most financial planners (and most clients) have a preference for stretching the distribution of their IRA (or other qualified retirement) accounts over long periods of time so as to lessen the income tax burden on those accounts over many years.  And, if possible, most clients would prefer the ability to leave dollars in those accounts to their children and grandchildren as a form of legacy/inheritance. However, as life circumstances change, it sometimes makes sense to keep an open mind about how we view the distribution of those accounts. 

In our experience, we have found that it sometimes makes sense to consider accelerating the distribution of IRAs/qualified retirement accounts when the following circumstances are present:

  • Owner of the IRA is an older adult (in this context, meaning beyond RMD status)

  • IRA/Qualified Retirement Accounts are smaller accounts within the clients overall investment portfolio (i.e. have a $30k IRA and have other investment accounts/bank accounts to draw from)

  • Are likely in a lower tax bracket than the heirs they might be leaving the assets to

  • May have medical/health care costs to write off to offset the income from the potential income from IRA/qualified account distributions

While these circumstances certainly will not apply to MOST clients, they might apply to a select few. When they do, this strategy can not only save significant tax dollars but can simplify the distribution of an estate long term by avoiding the division of a small IRA amongst multiple beneficiaries.

If you or your family have questions about whether this strategy might apply to you or someone you know, please reach out to our Center Team.  We are always happy to help!

Sandra Adams, CFP® is a Partner and Financial Planner at Center for Financial Planning, Inc.® Sandy specializes in Elder Care Financial Planning and is a frequent speaker on related topics. In addition to her frequent contributions to Money Centered, she is regularly quoted in national media publications such as The Wall Street Journal, Research Magazine and Journal of Financial Planning.

Any opinions are those of Center for Financial Planning, Inc. and not necessarily those of Raymond James. The information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. Any information is not a complete summary of all available data necessary for making a financial decision and does not constitute a recommendation. Please note, changes in tax laws may occur at any time and could have a substantial impact upon each person's situation. Raymond James does not provide tax advice. You should consult a tax professional for any tax matters related to your individual situation.