Legal Documents to Have for Elderly Parents

By Fraser Sherman
your parents

grand parents at home image by Daria Miroshnikova from Fotolia.com

If an accident leaves your parent or parents unable to manage their affairs, could you step in and take charge of their money and their legal needs? A parental crisis, or death, will be stressful in itself; if you have to figure out their finances without any preparation, it will be that much worse. If you have key legal documents ready in advance, it will make looking out for your parents easier for you and for them.

Healthcare Advance Directive

This is a term covering various documents such as a healthcare power of attorney, a healthcare proxy, a living will or a do-not-resuscitate order. What they have in common is that they give you the authority to make medical decisions for your parents, such as authorizing treatments, dismissing doctors or choosing a rehab facility.

Power of Attorney

Your parents can use a power of attorney document to give you the authority to buy and sell property, use their bank account to pay their bills or make decisions for their business. A "springing" power of attorney can be set up so that it only takes effect when your parents are incapacitated.

Wills

If your parents know how they want their assets and personal treasures disposed of after death, a will is the simplest way to give those wishes legal weight. Not only should they have a will made out, but you need to know where to find it after their death.

HIPAA Authorization

Under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, doctors and hospitals cannot divulge your parents' health information to unauthorized people; and even if you are your parents' caregiver, that doesn't mean you're authorized. Make sure you have a legal form spelling out that you have the right to know your parents' medical condition.

Extra Information

In addition to legal authorization, it will help if your parents have all their legal and financial information available where you can find it. That includes bank statements, investment records, car registration, mortgage, records of trusts or legal agreements and other documents you'll need to handle their affairs in an emergency.

About the Author

A graduate of Oberlin College, Fraser Sherman began writing in 1981. Since then he's researched and written newspaper and magazine stories on city government, court cases, business, real estate and finance, the uses of new technologies and film history. Sherman has worked for more than a decade as a newspaper reporter, and his magazine articles have been published in "Newsweek," "Air & Space," "Backpacker" and "Boys' Life." Sherman is also the author of three film reference books, with a fourth currently under way.

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