If you are aging or caring for an aging loved one, these are the IMPORTANT documents you should have in place. Many people don't think about these documents until they are needed. It's really easy to keep putting this task on the back burner too. Here I share some reasons you shouldn't.
I've come across many stories where a needed document was not available, either because it had never been established or couldn’t be found. There are other stories of documents presented that were not accepted. I don't want you to be in these situations.
What are the important documents?
The Living Will
The Healthcare Power of Attorney
The Financial Power of Attorney
Advance Directives (including Final Wishes and Instructions)
Family Written Agreement for Care
Why are these documents important?
In short, these documents aim to accomplish the following in case of death or incapacity:
A selected person can access financial information and do necessary business on another’s behalf;
A selected person can be actively involved in another’s care, being both authorized and informed;
A selected person will have power and knowledge to decide on all matter as another would if they were able; and
All post-death matters will be handled as one would direct, including all receipts by beneficiaries.
The core here is naming an agent with authority and instructions who will act for another when they can’t.
Why establish these documents soon?
It usually surprises people to learn that, except for a couple of states, California and Florida (both states popular with retirees), few or very slight penalties apply for any person or institution rejecting a presented form that appears completely valid.
The reasons may be…too old, too fresh, not-on-our-company form, no confirming signature from the witness, and so on. Typically, there is no appetite for seeking legal recourse in such cases.
So, in addition to needing time to make important decisions and getting these documents executed, you need time to ensure they prepared properly. Your best defense will lie in having your documents prepared, executed, or at least reviewed by an attorney practicing in this field of law.
Last tip: Make sure you know the location of the paperwork once it is in place!
Case Study 1
Alex and Joan are sisters. Their father has passed and their mother, now living alone in the family home, has fallen and broken her hip.
Alex and Joan both live within a mile of the home they grew up in. With mom in the hospital recovering from hip surgery, they are planning how they are going to share care for her when she returns home.
Unexpectedly, their mom doesn’t recover very well from surgery and won’t be as independent as they thought. Also, her mental state seems fragile all of a sudden, which takes the sisters by surprise. The doctors start asking them questions about her living will and if either of them have power of attorney.
They go to their mom's house and spend 2 hours hunting down their mother’s estate planning files. She does have them! But, when reading through, they find that their father is listed as the agent. He passed away 5 years ago!
Will they be able to make medical decisions for their mom if her mental state continues to decline? How can they get revised documents in place now with their mom isn't in a state of mind to express her wishes?
Case Study 2
Rebecca is a 39-year-old about to have surgery to remove a benign tumor in her abdomen. This was completely unexpected.
However, Rebecca is a planner. She has two children, a house, and a business to protect. Her financial planner had consulted with her a few years ago to put these important documents in place to protect her assets and ensure her children were beneficiaries to the assets she wanted to go to them.
During one of her pre-surgical appointments, the nurse asked if the had an advance directive. She was able to say confidently that she did! And she knew what that was! This conversation did make her think about the documents though.
She remembered how easy it had been to work with an attorney to put all these in place at once. She didn't remember having conversations about her final wishes. She got home, reviewed the documents and she was right. They made clear her wishes in case of death and named her executor and beneficiaries, but there was no instructions for what she wanted in case she was still living and couldn't make decisions for herself.
She reached out to her best friend, who was her executor, and made sure she knew where her copies of the documents were, just in case. She then had a conversation with her about what she wanted to happen if the surgery went unexpectedly bad. She documented the conversation and made sure her files and her friend's were updated.
Rebecca was able to go into her surgery with peace of mind.
© 2023 Elder Care Solutions
Here's an item that can help you organize your important documents.