By: Lee Anne Davies
Cowardly is the only way to describe people who target those living with Alzheimer's for the purposes of financial gain. Statistically speaking, these people are most likely to be your family, friends, or neighbours.
It is deeply hurtful to even remotely consider that someone from your most trusted group of allies could be intending to take advantage of you when you are most vulnerable, but avoiding this issue only leaves you more vulnerable. Some U.S. reports estimate that financial elder abuse and scams may increase to a rate of 20 per cent for those over age 65 by 2030.
Your best line of defence is to increase your awareness on some of the more typical financial threats so you can remain in control of your financial assets even as the disease progresses and substitute decision-makers get involved.
Communications - Avoiding a Breakdown
Open up communications with those people who will assist you in managing your financial assets and clarify your intended use for these assets. For example, if you are concerned about those closest to you experiencing caregiver stress, encourage them to use some of the money for caregiving assistance and respite care relief as needed.
This does two things: it removes any guilt on others who are "spending your money" for caregiving, and also helps ensure that if someone is likely to receive a gift from your estate and is worried about assets dwindling unnecessarily, they will be unable to assert their opinion since you have already expressed your instructions.
Share with your trusted team that it is okay and even common for disagreements to arise over the best use of financial assets since the situation is emotionally charged. Encourage each person to share their point of view but to remember the primary goal is your well-being.
Above all, request that no person hoards information. Suggest a monthly meeting of your key support group and remind them to ensure you are included as long as it is physically possible.
Unfortunately your estate may be the motivating factor for some family, friends and even charitable organizations to stay in touch with you. Sometimes threats of abandonment or neglect are suggested to encourage you to modify your will.
This is elder abuse.
There is no need for anyone to know the directions contained in your will. The document can remain private until your death. You may find yourself worrying that your need for future caregiving may be withheld if certain persons are not sure they will receive a bequest.
In this case your best protection is to discuss your concerns with legal counsel. Alert legal counsel to potential problems that could arise when your estate is settled. Your lawyer will have ideas on how to protect you and your estate. Do not be embarrassed to share your concerns with legal counsel -- this is a familiar situation for lawyers.
Advances on Estates
"You're not using the money" is one of the more common forms of financial pressure, often from adult children or grandchildren. The individual knows they are likely to receive money from your estate but they want the money now. There will be an urgent need such as a down payment for a car or even a home.
If you are considering an advance, please involve legal counsel. Clear documentation of the advance is needed, clarifying the amount, a future valuation calculation and the intention to deduct this amount from the estate distribution.
The greatest concern with this situation is that the advance may exceed the value of the inheritance. For example, if the will indicates that your son will receive 20 per cent of the estate but your care costs have reduced the total estate, the 20 per cent gift may be less than the value of the advance.
You will never be able to fully protect your assets. You also cannot prevent the breakdown of relationships that may occur as your adult children, siblings, or others you trust disagree on your care and associated financial issues.
Everyone needs to be flexible, placing your needs first and willingly build relationships by working as a team to ensure your well-being. By establishing a well-informed team now you can help reduce the likelihood of financial threats.
Brought to you by The Alzheimer Society of Ontario.
This story was originally published in the Alzheimer Society of Ontario's newsletter as well as on alzlive.com, a website for caregivers of people living with Alzheimer's and dementia.
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