Important Documents for Seniors to Have

When it comes to preparing for the end of life, it doesn’t need to be a daunting experience. It will help ensure that your wishes are respected and followed in times when you may not be able to voice your wants and needs at a specific time. By having these legal documents lined up before they are needed, your family will be grateful you took the time to organize the documents included in the list below.

An Advanced Directive

Also known as a medical directive, this document outlines the level of care you wish if you become ill or incapacitated and are unable to state the care wanted. 

It can include if you would want advanced measures such as artificial support for breathing or eating. It can help determine the quality of life and what measures are necessary. The advanced directive will outline the wishes and help the family have guidance and clarity.

Healthcare Power of Attorney

If there is a power of attorney in place for healthcare decisions, this would give someone of your choosing the ability to make decisions for you in the event of incapacity or an illness allowing for quick decisions in a healthcare setting. 

If this is not in place, it’s a court battle for a family member to navigate through the court system to be appointed as a conservator.

Financial Power of Attorney

Similar to the healthcare power of attorney, this legal document appoints the person of your choosing to manage your financial life and affairs for example, to pay bills, help with renting or selling a property, contracting for services, and deciding arrangements for your care such as a place to live. This can help ensure that if you need care, your appointed person can help pay the finances.

There are four types of financial power of attorney:

  1. Limited – This allows a person to act for you for a limited purpose – such as a signature, but this would end at a specified time noted in the document.
  2. General – This comprehensive document allows your choice of attorney to sign documents, pay any bills, or any other financial transactions for you. This directive would end at your death or if you are incapacitated unless you revoke it prior.
  3. Durable- This type allows for it to become effective if you become incapacitated or unable to make decisions yourself. Having this in place avoids a court-appointed conservator through a court process. The durable power of attorney is in place until death unless previously rescinded while not incapacitated.
  4. Springing- This directive becomes effective at the moment of incapacitation. If using this particular directive, the type of incapacitation must be identified to trigger this becoming active.

Revocable Trust and Will

One of the most important documents to have is a Revocable Living Trust. 

A revocable trust would allow an estate after death to avoid probate court. It acts as a will that outlines guardianship, control of assets, designation of a property, and who will be awarded these items. This trust will remain private compared to a will that is public. 

Having these documents in place will help your loved ones manage what happens in the event of your death or incapacitation. There may be a point that because of a diagnosis of dementia or Alzheimer’s that it may be a good idea to put these in place. It does not automatically determine that you are not of a “sound mind” to put together a will, but that as the disease progresses in the future, there may come a time when you are not able to do this yourself.

There are several ways to get started which don’t have to be overwhelming. 

Having these documents in place may take some time, but you’re setting your family up to handle your affairs later.