In your family do you have someone with a disability? Does your family member or anyone you know have Multiple Sclerosis? Are you aware that Multiple Sclerosis affects hundreds of thousands of people in the United States, as well as those who love and care for them. Right now there is unfortunately no known cure. In addition, people living with the disease had no prior recognizable risk factors. Do you know what Multiple Sclerosis is and how it impacts the body? Multiple Sclerosis is a central nervous system disorder that is usually diagnosed between the ages of 15 and 50. MS 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.

To increase awareness of MS, advocacy groups, concerned organizations and individuals worked to have March designated as Multiple Sclerosis Awareness Month in order to help those impacted. This annual event is dedicated to increasing public education, advancing research, and supporting those in need. During March, you will probably see orange ribbons with butterfly symbols. Orange is the official color of MS awareness, and the butterfly represents the shape commonly seen on magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans of someone with Multiple Sclerosis.

If you have a loved one who has been diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, it may be important for you to meet with an experienced Florida estate planning attorney. You and your attorney will then begin to engage in special needs planning so that you can help ensure your loved one is well cared for in the event such care is needed. We would like to share three important questions for you to discuss with your loved one.

1. Does your loved one have a Florida power of attorney? If the answer is no, talk to your loved one about the importance of a power of attorney. By creating a power of attorney now, your loved one can designate an agent of his or her choice to act on his or her behalf. In addition, the agent can manage his or her financial affairs in the event the MS advances to the point where your loved one becomes temporarily or permanently unable to do so for himself or herself. The power of attorney can also provide the agent with specific directives and authorities regarding how your loved one would want affairs handled so that any guesswork may be eliminated. Most importantly, establishing a durable power of attorney means that the power granted by the document will survive incapacitation of the principal.

2. Does your loved one have a Florida Health Care Surrogate and Living Will? As above, if the answer is no, talk to your loved one about the importance of a health care surrogate and living will. In the event your loved one is unable to communicate directly with his or her doctors, a trusted individual chosen by your loved one to be his or her health care surrogate, will be able to make healthcare decisions in accordance with the wishes of your loved one. A living will can define end of life care preferences in the event of a terminal stage situation.

3. Has there been any financial planning? For the person living with MS life can be very complicated and expensive. Discuss with your loved one the importance of enlisting the help of experienced professionals, including a Florida estate planning attorney, to help plan for long-term care if it is needed. 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.

We understand that an MS diagnosis can be both stressful and overwhelming for you and your loved one, however, by planning together we want to 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.

We know you may have questions about this, and many other, elder care issues. At the Perlin Estate Planning & Probate our credentials enable us to provide a multi-disciplinary approach to our legal services. By building relationships with our clients, we are also able to understand each client’s needs and desires, and we support such goals through thoughtful, comprehensive planning techniques. We encourage you to contact us and schedule a meeting.