Alzheimer's Disease Education and Referral Center

About Alzheimer's Disease: Legal and Financial Planning

A couple looking at checkbookMany people are unprepared to deal with the legal and financial consequences of a serious illness such as Alzheimer's disease. Legal and medical experts encourage people recently diagnosed with a serious illness—particularly one that is expected to cause declining mental and physical health—to examine and update their financial and health care arrangements as soon as possible.

Basic legal and financial instruments, such as a will, a living trust, and advance directives, are available to ensure that the person's late-stage or end-of-life health care and financial decisions are carried out. A complication of diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease is that the person may lack or gradually lose the ability to think clearly. This change affects his or her ability to participate meaningfully in decision making and makes early legal and financial planning even more important. Although difficult questions often arise, advance planning can help people with Alzheimer’s and their families clarify their wishes and make well-informed decisions about health care and financial arrangements.

When possible, advance planning should take place soon after a diagnosis of early-stage Alzheimer’s disease while the person can participate in discussions. People with early-stage disease are often capable of understanding many aspects and consequences of legal decision making. However, legal and medical experts say that many forms of planning can help the person and his or her family even if the person is diagnosed with later-stage Alzheimer’s.

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Money Problems (PDF, 156K)

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Featured Research

The image of hands holding puzzle pieces shadowDeclining capacity to perform the financial tasks of daily living may be one of the first noticeable signs of Alzheimer's disease. NIA-supported researchers from the University of Alabama, Birmingham assessed financial capacity in patients with mild cognitive impairment (MCI) and found that declining financial skills were detectable in the year before their conversion to Alzheimer's. Read more »