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"How to get Medi-Cal coverage for your nursing home care... without selling your home or leaving your family without a dime... Surprising ways to pay for your assisted living and long term care costs."

Elder Law Today Newsletter | October, 2016

 

Finding Peace of Mind for the Parkinson's Family

Parkinson’s Disease (or “PD”) is a chronic neurological condition, named in 1817 by Dr. James Parkinson, a London physician. PD is a progressive disease which affects the brain and lessens production of a chemical known as “dopamine.” This disease is not inherited and is not necessarily related to advanced age.

PD has affected all kinds of people, including Pope John Paul II and Michael J. Fox. The disease was named by Dr. Parkinson as “Shaking Palsy”. Indeed, we associate the disease with tremors, but PD also affects motor skills, speech, and even breathing and swallowing. Other symptoms can include slowness of movement, small, cramped handwriting, and gait and balance problems. Although there is no cure for PD at this time, progressive treatments allow many patients to function at a high level for extended periods of time. As some of our clients are PD families, we would like to share the following information.

Take Steps To Obtain Peace of Mind Regarding The Future: Become informed about the disease. Research as much as you can about PD. You may consider joining the nearest chapter of the Parkinson’s Association, and you may also benefit from joining a PD support group.

Consider meeting with an experienced Elder Law attorney. I meet with many clients and their families, where PD has affected their lives. It is critical that you and your loved ones be proactive and take time to do proper planning. When PD is introduced into our lives, life becomes more complicated, and the progressive lack of motor skills can impair the ability of the PD patient to communicate wishes and desires.

Estate planning documents, including the revocable living trust and financial and health care durable powers of attorney, should be created. From my experience, people often do not know that they need these documents. It comes as a shock to many couples I am counseling, who may have been married for many years, that since their financial and health care desires were never put in writing, they have no legal authority to make decisions for their spouse.

If you already have these documents, in most cases you will want to update them to contain the correct asset protection and government planning language. If a client loses capacity, we must rely on the existing language in the estate planning documents. If the language is not sufficient, we may have to go to court to update the language, which is costly.

The updated language will provide, in part, that if the client loses mental capacity, their loved one or trusted individual named in the documents, can transfer assets during your lifetime, pursuant to the regulations, in order to obtain qualification for Medi-Cal and/or VA benefits. The language will also provide for the use of various approved asset protection devices, including the use of other trusts, to protect the client’s assets and the home. There is “triggering” language in the various estate planning documents which allows for this type of planning. The majority of estate planning documents does not have this language.



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