Do you ever stop to think about the thousands of people who live each day with a disability? How about the disability, Multiple Sclerosis? MS affects hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, as well as those who love and care for them. Presently there is no known cure and most people living with the disease had no prior recognizable risk factors. To help those impacted, advocacy groups and concerned organizations and individuals have worked and advocated to have the month of March recognized as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month. This annual event is dedicated to increasing public education, advancing research, and supporting those in need.
Do you know what Multiple Sclerosis is? MS is a central nervous system disease that is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. Multiple Sclerosis damages or destroys the protective covering, known as myelin, surrounding the nerves of the central nervous system and causes reduced communication between the brain and nerve pathways. This leads to a variety of health symptoms, including visual problems, overwhelming fatigue, difficulty with balance and coordination, and various levels of impaired mobility.
During March you might see orange ribbons with butterfly symbols. Orange is the official color of Multiple Sclerosis awareness, and the butterfly represents the shape commonly seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of someone with MS.
Do you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis? It is important to discuss with your loved one the need for estate planning. Together you need to meet with an experienced estate planning attorney and begin to create an estate plan so that you can help ensure your loved one is well cared for in the event such care is needed. Let us share three important topics for you to discuss with them.
1. Discuss the creation of a power of attorney. Discuss with your loved one the importance of executing a power of attorney designating an agent to act on his or her behalf and manage his or her financial affairs. By acting while your loved one has capacity, he or she may decide who to choose. This document will then protect your loved one in the event the MS advances to the point where your loved one becomes temporarily or permanently unable to make decisions for himself or herself. The power of attorney can provide the agent with specific directives and authorities regarding how your loved one would want affairs handled so that any guesswork may be eliminated. In addition, establishing a durable power of attorney means that the power granted by the document will survive incapacitation of the principal.
2. Discuss the creation of a health care surrogate and living will. In addition to the power of attorney, your loved one should also execute a health care surrogate and living will. A health care surrogate designates a trusted individual to make health care decisions on behalf of an incapacitated individual. The healthcare surrogate, created while your loved one has capacity to choose an agent, will be able to make healthcare decisions in accordance with the wishes and desires of your loved one in the event he or she is unable to communicate directly with his or her doctors. A living will gives instructions for end of life care preferences in the event of a terminal stage situation.
3. Discuss financial planning. Because living with MS can be complicated and expensive, it may be important to enlist the help of experienced professionals, including a Florida estate planning attorney, to help plan for the long-term care of your loved one with MS. An experienced Florida estate planning attorney can help set up a trust or other vehicle that will enable your loved one to make the best use of available finances while still qualifying for essential government benefits.
Any diagnosis of a disease causing illness is heartbreaking. We understand an MS diagnosis can feel stressful and overwhelming for you and your loved one. However, good estate planning will help you both feel more secure about the future. Our office is available to assist in establishing a comprehensive plan for your loved one with MS.
Remember, at the end of the day, estate planning is not just for you. Instead, it is for the ones you love most. If we can answer any questions for you on putting this estate planning in place, please do not hesitate to let us know. For more information on finding the best way to protect your legacy with estate planning, please feel free to contact our office to schedule a meeting time.