Aging is an inevitable part of a long life, but it can also be quite unpredictable. Seniors rarely know when they may become injured, ill, or begin to lose cognitive capability. If these things occur, seniors may need some help with decision-making and planning. Older adults should also want to ensure that their affairs are in order – in a manner that they are comfortable with. Therefore, although it can be difficult for families to broach the subject, seniors should talk about their plans and desires – and have the right legal documents to back up their wishes.
There are several essential legal documents that senior citizens should prepare while they are still of sound mind. Family members should help them to make sure that these papers are kept together in a safe and secure location (physically and digitally). It is important that a trusted friend or family member can access them if it becomes necessary.
Here are a few expert tips:
Seniors should consult with a financial advisor to gather banking information and document all bills and payment methods.
- Record bank account numbers, credit card information, investment portfolios, and any additional sources of income.
- Contact the bank to authorize permission for someone else to access your financial accounts to pay bills.
- Designate a durable financial power of attorney
- Gather important financial documents such as property deeds, title and registration for vehicles, insurance policies, and recent income tax returns
Healthcare decisions can be difficult for family members if they are uncertain about their loved one’s wishes. To avoid stress and confusion, seniors should make their wishes clear before they can no longer do so. Some necessary documents include:
- Advanced Directive: This document dictates what kind of care the individual is comfortable receiving, including ventilators, feeding tubes, or resuscitation.
- Durable Power of Attorney: This document identifies the person who is authorized to make medical decisions on their loved one’s behalf if they can’t make those decisions for themselves.
- Release of Information: This document gives healthcare providers permission to share healthcare data with designated individuals.
- Insurance Information: Seniors should keep copies of any health insurance cards and policies.
- Emergency Information: Record the contact names and numbers of healthcare providers, as well as a log of any surgeries, details about medical conditions, and an updated list of all prescription medications.
Other Important Documents
Here are a few additional documents your family may find useful if it is ever necessary.
- Revocable Trust: In this document, senior citizens select who will receive their property or assets. After death, this document will help to prevent a drawn-out probate process and keeps decisions confidential rather than public record.
- Will: This document outlines precisely how assets should be handled and, if applicable, who should take care of dependents.
- End-of-Life Planning: Older adults should record instructions for what happens once they pass away, such as what kind of memorial they prefer. Some may choose to pre-pay for funeral arrangements or burial plots to take that burden off of their families.
- Personal Legal Records: Gather copies of birth certificates, death certificates, marriage licenses, divorce decrees, and military records
The more prepared seniors and their families are for any eventuality, the less stressful and smooth things can transpire in emergency situations or in the event of end-of-life care. These topics can be hard to think about or discuss, but putting legal documents in place is essential. Don’t forget to inform any caregivers or loved ones (or an attorney or financial planner) about where the documents are kept and how they can be accessed.
A Banyan Residence is a professional and compassionate assisted living and memory care facility in Venice, Florida.