While talking to your parents about legal, financial, and long-term care issues can be awkward, it is absolutely necessary. The following is a list of legal documents you and your aging parent should have in place for the future.
- A Will– This will contain your loved one’s wishes regarding who will receive their personal assets and property when they pass away.
- Advanced Directives– Also known as a living will, these are written instructions regarding your loved one’s preferences for their medical care when they are no longer able to make decisions for themselves.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare– This is a document that allows one or more individuals to make healthcare decisions for their loved one when they are no longer able to do so themselves.
- A Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) Release Form– This will allow you to access your loved one’s health records and speak in depth with their physicians.
- Durable Power of Attorney for Finances– This is a document that grants one or more individuals the legal powers to perform certain specified acts for your loved one if he or she becomes incompetent to do so. These powers can include financial transactions, real estate deals, government benefits, personal and family issues, and estate trust and beneficiary transactions.
- A Do Not Resuscitate/Do Not Intubate Order– This document specifies that your loved one does not wish to be given cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or have a breathing tube inserted in an effort to save their life.
- A Revocable Living Trust– This paperwork will allow your loved one to retain control over their estate while transferring assets to beneficiaries in advance of their death. Your loved one will designate what property goes into the trust and to whom it will be given after they die. If your loved one has a revocable living trust, their estate will not go into probate when they pass away.
If you are not sure how to get started in having these difficult conversations with your parents, insurance organization MetLife offers some helpful tips regarding having your talks go smoothly.
- Start talking to your parents about these items while they are still young and in relatively good health. Once they become seriously ill, they may no longer be able to make the important decisions required.
- Be prepared for the fact that you might not agree with all of your parent’s final wishes, and that you need to respect their desires unless they represent a health or safety issue. Make sure your parents know you understand they are in control of their own lives.
- Find out where your parents keep all of their records and documentation. This can include wills, insurance policies, living wills, trust documents, tax returns, investment records, and banking information. This can help transition into a conversation about what still needs to be done.
- Be prepared to provide your parents with information on the legal and financial options they have available to them, and offer to help them sort things through.