There are several legal documents that are essential when you’re caring for someone, especially an aging loved one. Many people don’t prepare these documents until they think they are needed. Of course, if a document is not available when it is needed, you’ll miss out on all the benefits that document is supposed to provide. And, if you define “needed” as a time when their loved one is incapacitated, or unable to make their own decisions, that’s too late to put these documents together.

There are many stories of situations in which 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. These risks can be minimized with some forethought to put these essential documents in place and organize them so they can be readily accessed when needed.

The essential documents for an aging loved one

The Will

  • A will is a legal document containing instructions as to what should be done with one’s money and property after one’s death

The Healthcare Power of Attorney

  • The Healthcare Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows the signer to name another person as the decision maker in the event that they are unable to make their own health care decisions)

The Financial Power of Attorney

  • The Financial Power of Attorney is a legal document that allows the signer to name another person as the decision maker in the event that they are unable to make their own financial decisions.

Living Will / Advance Directive

  • Living Will / Advance Directive with final wishes and instructions is a written statement detailing a person’s desires regarding their medical treatment and care in circumstances in which they are no longer able to express their wishes themselves.

Why are these documents important? 

These documents aim to accomplish the following in case of incapacity or death:

  • A selected person (via Power of Attorney/Executor) 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. 

Why prepare and organize the documents sooner rather than later? 

  • You want to prepare these documents when your loved one can make sound decisions and communicate their wishes. You don’t want to be in a position where you are guessing what they would have wanted. 
  • You want to prepare these documents before anything unexpected happens. The worst possible situation is a loved one facing a health crisis and you are not in a legal position to be informed about what is happening and be a part of the decision-making process.
  • You want time to ensure your documents are valid. 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. So, in addition to decisions made, documents executed, and location of the paperwork known, there is the issue of acceptability. Your best defense will lie in having your documents prepared, executed, or at the least reviewed by a local attorney practicing in this field of law.

Who is the best legal support for family caregivers?

Attorneys that specialize in Estate Planning and/or Elder Law are your best professional aide here. A simple Google search will get you far. Look for an attorney that provides a free consultation. Within a consultation you can learn if your family’s estate is an easy or complicated situation and if the attorney is a good fit for your family. 

If you want more comprehensive help with the financial side of care, check out Elder Care Solutions.