Life can be unpredictable. Certain situations arise that no one ever expected, and when you’re unprepared in the event of an emergency, the stress levels of all those involved will only increase. This is why, regardless of age, it’s vital to routinely update and prepare your financial and legal documents that keep all your affairs in order, as well as make your wishes regarding your estate and health known.
Without keeping the proper documents and records on file, your loved ones may be faced with making difficult decisions should you become unable to communicate your desires. Be proactive now so you can dictate your choices before the circumstances change and your options become limited.
The key financial and legal documents for seniors include:
Last Will and Testament
A will is the most important document all adults should have. This document designates who will settle your estate, and what should be done with your assets and personal property after death. Without a will, the state will control who gets to make the decisions and what will be done with your property and belongings.
Advanced Health Care Directive
An advance health care directive, also known as a living will, is a written statement that spells out your desires regarding medical treatment if you are not able to express consent on your own. In other words, it lets loved ones know what your end-of-life wishes are and to what extent life-sustaining measures should be taken, including resuscitation, ventilation, tube-feeding and palliative care.
Healthcare Power of Attorney (POA)
This document legally designates a person, referred to as a healthcare agent or proxy, to make medical decisions for you in the event you become incapacitated. This person can interpret your what your wishes may have been for situations not covered in your living will.
Personal Medical History
It’s important for you and family members to have quick access to your personal medical history, especially during an emergency. You will also need your medical history when you’re applying for medical benefits, including Medicaid and veteran’s benefits.
Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for Finances
This important legal document for seniors names the person who will manage your financial affairs if or when you no longer can. It gives that person access to your bank accounts, the ability to sell your property, deal with insurance companies and handle any type of financial affairs.
Tax Returns and Bank Account Statements
Financial information is needed when applying for Medicaid or veteran’s benefits, so you’ll need to keep good records of your past and present financial situation. You should also keep documents like savings bonds, stock certificates and brokerage accounts, deeds to all property, vehicle titles, loan documents and pension or 401k documentation.
Keep all financial and legal documents together in a secure location, and make sure to let your adult children or trusted friends know where they are. You can choose to file them away at home, place them in a lockbox or safe deposit box, or provide them to your attorney.
Also, remember that loved ones may need access to vital information items such as your driver’s license or state identification, birth certificate, social security card, as well as lists of online usernames and passwords.