To help prevent this, as soon as someone receives a diagnosis of Alzheimer’s disease, he or she, with his or spouse or other close family members, should immediately meet with the family’s estate planning or elder law attorney to make sure that all of the legal documents are in place, including the will, trust, power-of-attorney, living will, and similar documents.  The family should also confront, head-on, how the family will handle caregiving needs when the person deteriorates.

Luckily, there was no public disagreement for the family of Gene Wilder while he was alive.  Early indications suggest that we won’t see a battle over his estate now that he is gone.  It appears that Wilder did the proper estate planning and minimized the chances of a fight among his heirs, although his passing was too recent to know for certain.  There have been no reported hints of family discord, despite his reported net worth of around $20 million.  This is a promising sign that Wilder took the proper steps with his legal planning.

Hopefully other families facing the illness-pirate, Alzheimer’s disease, will follow this same course and do the proper planning, early, before the person is no longer competent.  The terrible effects of Alzheimer’s disease are difficult enough for families, without the added burden of fighting over care, visitation, or money.

Danielle and Andy Mayoras are co-authors of Trial & Heirs: Famous Fortune Fights! and attorneys with the Michigan law firm, Barron, Rosenberg, Mayoras & Mayoras, P.C. Click here to subscribe to their e-newsletter, The Trial & Heirs Update and learn more about their book. You can reach them at [email protected]