It is easy to get so caught up in our own lives as we raise our children that we often forget that our parents are aging, as well. There comes a time when you must stop and look at the situation your aging parents are in, and, perhaps, step in and get involved. This article addresses the 5 most important legal documents for elderly parents and what you need to discuss.
It is not easy discussing legal documents and end-of-life scenarios with your parents. They likely fall into one of two categories:
- The planners who have already made the cemetery and funeral arrangements. They have set up trusts and advance directives, and have the necessary power of attorney documents in place.
- The avoiders who will not discuss anything and figure you will sort it out after they are gone.
Yes, there is a middle ground. Some people might have written a will or even completed a health care proxy. However, those documents might also be decades old. Having this difficult discussion with your parents is essential. You can address any issues that may be of concern at a later date.
What Are the 5 Most Important Legal Documents for Elderly Parents?
Although there are many important documents that your parents might need, there are five that are essential. The documents listed below address end-of-life decisions and financial matters.
The 5 legal documents for elderly parents include:
- Living Will (medical directive)
- A Will
- Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
- Revocable Living Trust
Why Your Elderly Parents Need a Living Will
A living will is also known as a medical or advance directive. It lets your parents decide now, while they are able, what care they want to receive in terminal situations. This is one of the most important legal documents for elderly parents as it takes the burden off the children should a situation arise.
The medical directive allows your parents to determine the following:
- Pain relief
- Invasive life-sustaining measures
The Importance of a Will – Even If Your Parents Have Nothing of Value
Next on our list of legal documents for elderly parents is a Will. A Will allows your parents to decide who will get what after their death. It is a difficult subject to discuss. No one wants to think about a time when they are no longer here; however, without a Will, the court will apply the state’s intestacy laws to determine who gets what. The money and assets could be tied up in the legal system for quite some time. A Will can prevent costly and volatile legal battles in the future.
Why a Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care is Important
The health care DPA lets you make necessary decisions about health care for your aging parents when they cannot. A “HIPAA release” should be a part of the health care power of attorney. Medical professionals will need this to release or grant access to medical records and discuss their care with you.
With a durable power of attorney for health care, you can make the following decisions:
- Managing who has access to medical records
- Arranging for hospitalization
- Consenting to care
- Refusing treatment options
- Deciding on long-term care situations
- Arranging for psychiatric treatment
Importance of a Durable Power of Attorney for Finances
Whereas the DPA for health care allows you to manage their care, the financial power of attorney allows someone to handle their finances. As some people age, their ability to handle their finances sometimes falters. This could include remembering to pay bills, manage investments, and obtain the proper insurance. The financial agent on record should act in your parent’s best interests to handle their financial interests. Of course, your parents can limit the scope of what the DPA can allow.
Why Do Your Parents Need a Revocable Living Trust?
The benefit of a revocable trust is that it can be changed or undone at any time. Your parents will be able to manage and control their assets for as long as they are mentally able or alive to do so. A “successor trustee” will take over the management of the trust when your parents cannot.
Your parents will determine what assets go into the trust, and to who they are granted after their death. The revocable living trust also helps avoid probate after their death, which allows for a seamless transition of asset ownership, while maintaining your family’s privacy.
Coral Springs attorneys Brodzki Jacobs & Brook can help you with these documents. Contact us at (954) 344-7737 for help with your legal needs.