This Mother’s Day, Michigan residents should consider a rather unorthodox, yet very important gift and that is the peace of mind that comes when you and your mother know the family will be taken care of when the inevitable occurs. Estate planning can be one of the most important gifts you give your family because it takes much of the guessing out of what you, and your mother’s wishes are in the event either of you should become incapacitated and unable to make important financial and medical decisions on your own behalf.

Whether it is a car accident, sudden illness or the slow and agonizing onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia, it is important to have the discussion with your parents if they do not already have a will, trust or powers of attorney to guide the family. Any number of events in life can deprive someone of the ability to manage their own finances or make the necessary decisions regarding their medical care. And, according to the Alzheimer’s Association, more women than men suffer from the disease or other forms of dementia.

In fact, almost two-thirds of American’s diagnosed with Alzheimer’s are women. That equates to 3.4 million women and 1.8 million men aged 65-years or older who have Alzheimer’s. Sixteen percent of women and 11 percent of men aged 71 or older have Alzheimer’s or some other form of dementia. Forty-three percent of people over the age of 85 have Alzheimer’s disease and one in eight over age 65 have it. On average, every 69 seconds someone in the United States develops some form of this illness.

But when financial advisors and accountants were asked about their experiences with clients suffering from memory loss they all raised the same concerns, elderly parents and their adult children are too slow to seek or provide assistance in the early stages of memory loss and dementia. One financial planner who has experienced the problem in his own practice said denial is most likely the biggest reason for the problem. Parents who want to stay independent may minimize the symptoms and adult children are reluctant to meddle in their parents’ financial lives.

Whatever the reasons, it is important to understand how the disease can negatively affect your parent’s current and future financial wellbeing. Consulting with an estate planning attorney who can help you with Medicaid planning and ensure you document a solid estate plan can protect your parents now and in the future. Watch for next week’s post which will continue on this topic and include tips on how to begin the discussion and get them started on planning for their future.

Source: Smart Money, “Talking to Mom About Alzheimer’s and Her Money,” Glenn Ruffenach, May 7, 2012

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