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Are You or a Loved One Prepared? Start with These Vital Legal Documents

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Are you prepared to care for your aging loved one? One essential part of preparing to care for an aging adult is having important documents ready and available. Our life begins and ends with a paperwork trail from our birth certificate to our death certificate and everything in between. Let’s take a look at the documents that a family needs to care for a senior adult and their affairs.

Understanding End of Life Documents

Families need to first ensure that their loved one has secured important end-of-life documents. If not, it may mean contacting an elder law attorney to get the appropriate documents in place. Most people commonly think of the will and the will is an important end-of-life document. Trust documents should also be gathered with the will. An end-of-life instructions letter may be included with these documents but is optional. Life insurance policies are important for family members to be aware of in the caring process. Finally, if your loved one is an organ donor you will want to have the organ donor card. My suggestion is that family members take these important end-of-life documents put them in a folder, label them, and be sure that the senior adult loved one and at least one or two family members are aware of where these documents are being kept safely. These documents can save a lot of stress when families are dealing with the grief of losing a loved one.

Understanding Financial Documents

Another group of documents that families need to be aware of are financial documents. Many times, elderly family members are reluctant to openly share their financial information with their children. They may see that as giving up privacy. However, it is important to gently help them see the importance of sharing this information with someone. When gathering financial documents, it is first important to know who the financial power of attorney is and if one is not designated, you may need to visit your elder law attorney. This is the person who will need to be made aware of financial documents. Information from all bank accounts, loans, and debts should be included in the financial documents. Deeds and titles to property should be accessible, as well as pension and retirement account documentation. Tax returns may also be needed in this group of documents. Finally, if your loved one was in a partnership or corporation, that information should be included with the financial documents.  Having these documents handy can help families pay for care for their loved one and help keep the elderly person from becoming the victim of a scam.

Understanding Healthcare Documents

Healthcare needs can arise quickly and unexpectedly for an elderly loved one. It is essential to have healthcare documents at hand so that your loved one can receive efficient care. First, be sure the elderly person has a durable power of attorney and a living will. These can help the family to know who makes decisions for the senior adult and relieves stress associated with these difficult situations within families. If these are not in place, please see an elder law attorney to help get the appropriate documents. Having access to your loved one’s personal medical history if another healthcare document that is needed, as well as authorization to release that information. Finally, access to medical insurance and long-term care insurance information is a must. When you have these documents together and at the ready, it is much easier to get your loved one the healthcare they need.

Understanding Other Legal Documents

There are a few other documents that we gather along the way that are good to also keep together, filed in a safe place. The birth and death certificates, as well as any marriage or divorce certificates, and military records should be located. Also, keep track of the driver’s license, social security card, and passport. A list of safety deposit boxes and the location of the keys should be noted in this file. With so much of our affairs going through the internet, it is also useful to maintain a list of usernames and passwords associated with sites that are important to your loved one and their affairs.

Getting documents together is important no matter what state your loved one is in.

Always remember to be patient and understanding when working with an elderly loved one to get important documents together. It can be a difficult process for some. Once gathered, organize and secure the documents. Then be sure all interested parties are aware of where the documents are kept. Being prepared is better for everyone.

If you have any questions about something you have read or would like additional information, please feel free to contact us.

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2010 Gadsden Street
Columbia, SC 29201

Phone (803) 799-1700
Fax (803) 728-6718

331 E. Main St, Suite 257
Rock Hill, SC 29730

Phone (803) 909-9377
Fax (803) 728-6718