What Legal Documents Do I Need for Aging Parents?
Create a legal document checklist for aging parents and be ready to help if their health changes, they need to move, file for benefits or need other assistance. Plus, critical financial questions to ask your loved one and tips for organizing paperwork.
Are you responsible for keeping track of your loved one's legal affairs? It is vital to protect their rights, as well as those of any involved family members. A significant initial step will be collecting the necessary legal documents for your aging parent. The primary legal documents needed for your elderly parents include financial records, healthcare documents, and end-of-life and estate planning documents. Having up-to-date records is essential as their health conditions change, they need to move, file for benefits, and more. This article will discuss what documents are required, important financial questions to ask your loved one, and tips for organizing the paperwork.
Document Checklist for Elderly Parents
Beyond alleviating stress during a potentially tough time, having the proper documentation prepared and ready now may save your family and loved one any unnecessary legal and financial turmoil.
While an individual’s list should be customized based on their unique needs, nearly everyone should have the following documents in order.
Durable Power of Attorney
A Durable Power of Attorney, or a Power of Attorney (POA), should be created while your aging parent is still in good cognitive decision-making health. It is a legal document where your senior parent can name a person or persons (you) to act on their behalf in all legal and financial matters.
Medical Power of Attorney
Medical Power of Attorney is a directive that gives you the right to make decisions on your loved one’s healthcare. This kind of POA is best for people who cannot make their own medical care decisions, later-life planning, and legal preparations for someone with disabilities.
A Living Will is a legal document that states your loved one's health care preferences in the event they become incapacitated or unable to make decisions for themselves. This medical directive helps plan for decisions based on what your parent wants in regard to medical decisions, such as pain management, organ donation, end-of-life care, and more.
A Will, or a Last Will and Testament, is a legal document that controls the distribution of your loved one's property, also referred to as one's estate, upon death. The Will can only include property in your loved one's name. The will cannot have other assets like jointly owned property, life insurance, retirement benefits, or other assets in trusts.
Revocable Living Trust
Revocable Living Trusts make it more difficult for non-trustee family members to mismanage money or assets and safeguard your loved ones. They can amend or revoke the trust at their discretion without the beneficiary's consent.
Important Questions to Ask Aging Parents
It’s not always easy to speak with your parents about their financial situation and their healthcare and medical preferences, but it is important to have the conversation. Referah is here to help guide you through the process and prepare you and your parents for handling those potentially tricky decisions. Below is a list of questions you can use when speaking with your loved one about their desires and circumstances:
- What are your wishes for end-of-life?
- Do you have long-term care insurance?
- Do you have the documents mentioned above? If so, are these documents up-to-date?
- Who are your doctors, and what medications are you taking?
- What health insurance coverage do you have?
- Do you know why you are taking the medication you have been prescribed?
- Have you spoken with a professional about long-term care in senior care communities such as Assisted Living or Skilled Nursing Facilities?
If this guide was helpful, we encourage you to read our next article, "What is a Trust for an Elderly Parent?" Seniors and their loved ones can learn about several types of Trusts available that protect your family's valuable personal property or real estate.
How to Organize Elderly Parents’ Papers
Having your parents' documents, paperwork, and other valuable information organized and accessible saves valuable time and frustration. Organizing will not only help you avoid being swamped under a mountain of paperwork, but it is also an easy way to quickly reference documents during calls and meetings with medical, financial, and legal professionals.
First, it is essential to access computer accounts and records, important keys (i.e., house keys, file cabinet keys, etc.), and codes (safe codes, computer codes, etc.). Once you have access to their information, you will want to collect and organize their essential documents. Next, create a binder to store for safekeeping. Keep all critical documents like the Will, POA, banking information, birth certificate, insurance information, deeds, title documents, and more here.
Talk with your elderly parents about the organization of their papers and be sure that their doctors and other relevant medical professionals have copies too. Make sure you understand the differences between the senior living legal terms before you start compiling all the necessary documents.
Find Senior Care Near You
Sorting through a lifetime's worth of paperwork and information can be an emotional and taxing venture. Take this time to have those deeply connected talks with your loved ones and use it as an opportunity to get to know them better.
Let Referah's team of experts help you with the process. We work directly with seniors, their families, and (by extension) medical advisors to identify the best forms of support. Talk to one of our experts today about finding professional care and support in a senior living community that meets your loved one’s needs.