December 8, 2020
At some point in our lives, we slowly start to become more aware of our mortality. You probably won’t notice that your parents are aging until you are at a certain age that allows you to understand the true repercussions of aging. Your aging loved ones may not be able to make a decision regarding their assets or healthcare until it’s too late, so it might be your responsibility to talk to them about sorting out all the legal documents that will help honor their wishes. To help make the conversation easier for you, we’ve made a list of the 6 most important legal documents that you should talk about with your aging loved ones.
Durable Medical Power of Attorney
Power of attorney is a pretty popular legal document that delegates another individual to act on behalf of the person when it comes to legal or business matters. A durable medical power of attorney takes it a step further and allows you to make decisions related to their healthcare on their behalf if they are not able to. Understandably, this type of document isn’t a pleasant one if the time ever comes to use it, but sometimes it’s very important to keep a close eye on the health of your aging loved ones and be ready to take action if they have lost the ability to do so. The decisions that are included in the Medical POA are quite final, which means that the aging individual will mention whether they want to be put on life support machines or not. If you have the POA, you will be able to make decisions related to the very core of the medical treatment that your loved one will undergo.
End of Life Documents
This is one of the documents that you probably don’t want to bring up but you have to, unfortunately. Since it is a tough topic, people often dance around it for a while before they actually bring it up. When you are preparing an end of life plan for an aging parent, you’ll want to truly honor their wishes, so you need to make sure that you have this conversation to check all the boxes. End of life instructions provides a plan for the future when the inevitable happens. Your senior loved one will probably want to make some decisions regarding the healthcare services they might need when they are nearing the end of their life, and the most important decision will pertain to life support. The instructions should include any wishes your loved one may have, such as organ donation, funeral instructions, and any Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) instructions. DNR means that the doctors or nurses providing healthcare to the senior won’t proceed to do CPR if their breathing or heart stops.
Birth certificates are very important documents that are used as a prerequisite to be able to obtain or have accessibility to other important documents. They should always be easy to access for close members of the senior to ensure the facilitation of essential legal documents. They can be used to obtain a driver’s license, passport, voter ID, Medicaid, child support services, and eligibility for benefits. The good news is that if you can’t find it, it can be easily obtained or ordered through many different channels.
The HIPAA Release Form
The HIPAA release form is a very common document that needs to be taken care of as early as possible. The majority of hospitals and medical clinics provide a detailed release form that contains all of the patient’s health details and any medical procedures they were involved in the hospital. This document is the authorization needed to be able to disclose this medical information. You need to talk to the doctors and hospitals that your loved one visits to know if they provide HIPAA release forms. Most hospitals will inquire whether someone wants to be included in the HIPAA form. To avoid a lot of confusing and frustrating situations, your loved ones must include you in the release form if you want to get information regarding their medical condition.
Updated Will, Estate, or Trust
The distribution of the estate after your senior loved one’s death can become a very hectic occasion if they don’t sign a will that allows the control of its distribution. The legal document ensures that the intentions and will of the testator are applied after their death, and it is legally binding. Depending on how they want to divide the estate, the will can make sure that it’s distributed exactly as they want it to, but that is as long as the assets or properties are solely theirs. There is also the option of issuing a trust, which is a legal document that provides an individual with the authority to handle the distribution of property and money on behalf of the issuer of the trust. A trust can be either revocable or irrevocable, giving more options to the trustee and the owner. It’s important to mention that wills and trusts have no control over the distribution of life insurance benefits, retirement benefits, or joint assets, which have a different process. For things like insurance policies, the beneficiary designation is done once it’s issued, and the will cannot override the name mentioned in the designation.
Financial information is very important and it is often overlooked until it’s a bit late. This information can prove to be very valuable for efficient and affordable healthcare. When your aging loved one applies for benefits, they will be asked to present a comprehensive report of their finances in order to be approved. Not having an important financial document like tax returns or bank statements can certainly delay the approval of vital financial and medical benefits. Try to make sure that you have a list of your senior’s bank accounts, tax returns, 401ks, bonds, corporate agreements, and similar documents at hand to avoid any problems in the future.
As your loved ones grow old, you might want to try to anticipate the course of action that will make them as comfortable as possible, whether it’s managing their healthcare or helping them write a will. To be able to do so in the smoothest manner possible, legal documentation is key. In most cases, waiting too long to get legal documents of senior citizens in order causes problems down the line.