Contributed by: Sandra Adams, CFP®, CeFT™
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.