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What documents should families have on hand?

Is it enough to have their healthcare directive, will and social security number?
Status: Open    Apr 18, 2015 - 08:21 AM

Elder Law

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Apr 27, 2015 - 07:59 AM

No, though you have a good start. I have to commend the question because I counsel a great number of families who have to deal with the added stress of finding documents in a time of crisis. Having everthing together in advance is one of the greatest assets you can create for your parent or loved one.

According to A Place for Mom, the documents you should keep on hand include:

  • Copy of Birth Certificate
  • Copy of Driver's License
  • Copy of Social Security Card
  • Copy of Medicare / Medicaid / Insurance Coverage Card
  • Copy of Organ Donor Card
  • Copy of Marriage Certificate
  • Copy of Credit Cards
  • Copy of Mortgage Records
  • Copy of Military Records
  • Copy of Legal Power of Attorney, Healthcare Proxy, Living Will, Advance Directives

Read the full article at:

In my experience, it is wise to have either a three-ring binder or similar folder/folio that is easily accessible in a time of crisis. If you have the opportunity, discuss collecting these documents with the senior FAR in advance of any potential crisis, especially if you have been asked to be the primary decision maker.


Oct 12, 2015 - 03:23 PM

I’d suggest a financial power of attorney, and copies of statements from accounts to know how they are titled and who may have access to them. Depending of if you need to make a Medicaid or VA benefits application, there are many other documents you will need, e.g., birth certificate, marriage certificate, discharge papers, etc.

Oct 12, 2015 - 03:29 PM

You also need financial power of attorney, insurance cards (Medicare, Supplement and Prescription), birth certificate and picture id.

Oct 13, 2015 - 09:43 AM

At a minimum, every person regardless of asset level needs a Durable Financial Power of Attorney, Health Care Proxy, Living Will, and privacy authorizations. Notice, we didn’t say Will. Other documents can include a Will, DNR, and POLST (if applicable in your state). Families should also have birth certificates, marriage certificates, death certificates, Medicare cards, insurance cards, Social Security cards, discharge papers from the service, and financial statements in an accessible location. These are the minimum. Once we get into planning, there may be one or more trusts or other legal documents. As each family and circumstance is different, it’s hard to give a comprehensive, blanket answer.

Oct 14, 2015 - 09:10 AM

Generally, a will, financial general poa, health care poa, and living will, as well as an idea of what assets are and where they are are a good idea to have on hand. Additionally important documents like social security cards, marriage licenses etc are a good idea to keep as well.
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