By: Lee Anne Davies
Preparing your home for financial safety is often overlooked. Close the door to your home, be comfortable, feel safe and try not to think about the many changes taking place in your life. This is your sanctuary. Regardless of its size or status, this is your private place where you can be yourself.
Likely you have already received a great deal of information about preparing your home for the advances of Alzheimer's. Substantial research on falls, wandering, and food safety combined with advances in monitoring technologies are helping those with Alzheimer's remain in their homes longer. However, you will need to pay close attention to financial decisions necessary to protect your housing security. Although a home is often the largest asset owned, it is also the one with the least research and supports available when it comes to Alzheimer's and legal and financial matters.
Home is a key asset in your estate.
If you own your home you may be considering ways to bypass probate during estate settlement. Transferring the asset title and still continuing to live in the asset is one way and will make estate settlement easier. Another option is joint tenancy which adds more names on the title of the property. Each option has immediate tax implications as well as risks about your ability to control your living situation. It is normal to feel anxious about settling as many issues as possible. However it's more important to place your needs before those of your heirs and executors. Do not let anyone talk you into making their lives more convenient at the expense of your security. Most especially, do not transfer title of any asset without an independent review by a professional advisor.
Life leases and escalating care options.
A life lease can provide a lovely home with various levels of support for as long as you (and your partner) live. Although these are still relatively rare, they are attractive to people facing health changes who also want to be part of a supportive community while maintaining some level of independence. The greatest risk with a life lease for someone living with Alzheimer's is the potential breaking of rules regarding disruptive behaviours. If your Alzheimer's progression includes behavioural changes such as loss of inhibitions some neighbours may be disturbed, lack an understanding of Alzheimer's, and may request that your life lease be discontinued. This could result in eviction with minimal notice and greatly disrupt your life at a vulnerable time. As cruel as this sounds, it is legally possible and has been done.
You may find that most financial and legal advisors are hesitant about reverse mortgages but there is a time and place for them. Remaining in your home for as long as possible is likely your goal. In order to do this you will eventually need the support of various home care services. Freeing up cash to modify your home, purchase or rent equipment and hire support help can be done through cash obtained via a reverse mortgage. This releases equity from your home while contractually ensuring you and your loved ones continue to live there. This is one way to reduce changes in your life. There are some complexities to a reverse mortgage that may require the support of a professional advisor. Don't discard this option too quickly as it is a credit product that is continually improving to meet the needs of our aging population.
If you rent your home you will need to consider a few potential issues. Similar to the life lease situation, neighbours can complain about disturbing behaviours and this could result in your eviction. Most property management organizations are familiar with a range of challenges that their tenants may face and are supportive. A private rental arrangement may not be as supportive, especially if you are sharing a space with close proximity to others. Determine if you may encounter future problems and change your home if you feel your landlord may not understand some of the challenges of Alzheimer's.
As with all legal and financial situations, consult a professional before signing anything. Protect yourself by protecting your home sanctuary.
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.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
ALSO ON HUFFPOST: