Keeping track of legal documents for aging parents becomes essential as they age. Their care needs can change quickly, requiring you to move fast and have paperwork ready. Your relative may become ill, need to move, or have to file for state, federal, or veterans benefits. It becomes increasingly important to be able to quickly locate legal documents so that your aging loved one can have them on hand when required. From deeds and power of attorney to living wills and medical history, read on to see which legal documents seniors should have in order.
“Financial information can be crucial in many instances for timely, efficient, and more affordable care,” says Stuart Furman, elder care attorney in Valley Center, CA.
For example, a senior applying for certain benefits is required to demonstrate their financial need and will have to provide comprehensive documentation of past and present finances.
“If a family member cannot locate important documents like tax returns or bank account information, it could delay care or even cause a senior to be denied insurance like Medicaid or veterans benefits,” says Tiffany Wise, senior director of customer development at A Place for Mom.
Keep track of these important financial documents:
Regardless of health status, it’s vital that your loved one’s preferences be stated clearly in a living will. A health care proxy is a document where your loved one can name a person or persons to make medical decisions for them when they can’t. A living will together with a health care proxy can ensure that your loved one’s general wishes and care instructions regarding life support, the donation of organs, and other medical issues will be followed. These are also known as advance directives.
When taking your older parent to a hospital, doctors may want documented proof that you’re the decision maker. They may ask for documentation of your loved one’s durable power of attorney or advance directives. This is when having official paperwork handy becomes important: Having it close can eliminate any additional stress for a smoother hospital visit. Furthermore, ready access to a senior’s medical history can be lifesaving during a medical emergency. For example, documentation about the medications they’re currently taking could dramatically influence treatment.
Medical records are also necessary when applying for benefits, including VA assistance and Medicaid. They are also needed when moving to a senior living community.
Keep track of these important health care documents:
Making sure your elderly loved one has estate planning and end-of-life documents, or that they are up-to-date and easily accessible. These documents can save both elderly loved ones and their children the burden of added stress during a difficult time. Without these documents, families can be thrown into unnecessary legal and financial chaos.
When it comes to end-of-life and estate planning, you and your aging parent should consult with a lawyer who specializes in elder law to help ensure everything is thoroughly taken care of.
Keep track of these essential end-of-life and estate planning documents:
Marriage certificates and military records are required when applying for VA benefits such as Aid and Attendance and are also required in applications for many kinds of state and federal assistance. Seniors may even need their birth certificates.
For example, some states require people to have a photo ID for everything from airline travel to voting in an election. If a senior doesn’t have a photo ID, a birth certificate is usually needed.
Keep track of these miscellaneous important papers:
It’s not enough to merely have these legal documents for aging parents — they need to be accessible. Experts recommend important documents be added to a master folder or box. The folder should be kept in a safe place, like a fire-proof safe.
Going paperless is another option for having easy access to legal documents seniors should have. You can scan them onto your computer, name them accordingly, and store them using an external hard drive or cloud storage service. This way, you can send over documents with ease when required. Keep in mind, a digital copy will not always work, as some documents must be presented in physical form.
Regardless of how you choose to store legal documents for your aging parents, it’s important to keep them safe and organized. Take time to find a system that works best between your senior and their loved ones, so you all easily find the right documents when needed.