BOOK REVIEW: Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability

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Martin M. Shenkman. Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability, (Demos Health, New York, NY: 2009). 224 pages.

$21.95 from the publisher -- click on book to order.

If you or a loved one was recently diagnosed with a chronic condition, or if you have been living with a chronic disability for a while and have not gotten your estate plan in order, then you will want to read Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability by attorney Martin M. Shenkman. This new book provides valuable information about putting together an estate plan that reflects the specific issues facing people coping with difficult and chronic conditions.

While most books on estate planning devote many pages to estate taxation, probate avoidance and Medicaid planning, Shenkman purposefully steers around these areas. Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability focuses instead on topics that matter to people living with chronic conditions, such as designing a durable power of attorney that can work for people with an episodic illness, picking the right health care agent, and ensuring access to medical records, among many other issues. In fact, Shenkman devotes individual chapters to each of the important estate planning documents and he describes in detailed but easy-to-understand terms how the common estate planning documents should be altered for someone with a chronic condition.

As an experienced estate planning attorney, Shenkman also provides helpful suggestions that clients can follow to get the most out of their estate planning attorneys and other planning professionals. Since the book is written directly for clients with chronic conditions, it gives specific tips about issues that affect their lives, like how to make document executions easier when coping with Parkinson's, and do's and don'ts when it comes to videotaping a will signing.

While Shenkman's book is very thorough when it comes to most estate planning documents, he only briefly touches on special needs trusts and access to government benefits, topics that could be very important for people who don't have the resources to cover their own care. Since some of these instruments can be created only by family members or by court order, it would be helpful to know that there are other steps family members reading the book should probably take to protect their loved ones with chronic conditions, apart from those Shenkman discusses at length.

Receiving a diagnosis like ALS or Alzheimer's can be devastating, but there are measures a person can take to make living with these diseases easier, both on themselves and on their families. Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability takes some of the worry out of making these important estate planning decisions and encourages people living with disabilities to focus on, and positively shape, their futures.

To order Estate Planning for People with a Chronic Condition or Disability directly from the publisher, click here. Article Last Modified: 06/16/2009

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