As your parent grows older, it’s difficult to know just what to expect, what their individual journey will look like and what unforeseen circumstances you will potentially face in the future. While you can’t mentally and emotionally prepare for everything that may come along, taking a few practical, proactive measures can help you be ready to handle the logistics.
Along those lines, it’s vital you can quickly and efficiently locate certain information in order to help your loved one protect their retirement account, apply for local and state benefits, or receive medical assistance when they need it. That involves having several important legal, financial and medical documents in order if you’re caring for an older parent in West Seattle.
Top Legal Documents for Elderly Parents
No matter what mental health or physical health your loved one is in currently, if you anticipate having any sort of caregiver role in their life, it’s best to be proactive about getting organized. That way you’re prepared, no matter what happens. Here are some of the most common and important legal documents for seniors that you must be able to access:
1. Banking and Retirement Accounts
As your parent grows older, they may require assistance with their finances. It also can help to have a second pair of eyes checking key financial accounts to make sure there isn’t unusual activity that could indicate your parent has fallen victim to identity theft or a harmful senior scam. You should collect information for all your loved one’s bank accounts, as well as pension documents; annuity contracts; and 401(k) information.
2. Proof of Assets
Whether your parent has invested in several areas or merely holds a few personal assets, you should also have documentation for those business dealings. That may include savings bonds; stock certificates; brokerage accounts; vehicle titles; and deeds to all properties. Additionally, find out about any ongoing partnership and corporate operating agreements and acquire documentation of loans, debts and credit accounts. Having access to this data will enable you to help your aging loved one sell their property, pay off outstanding loans or take other actions necessary to manage and protect their finances.
3. Power of Attorney
Power of attorney gives you the ability to carry out financial, legal and healthcare decisions for your parent as outlined in their will. This becomes increasingly important if your loved one struggles with memory loss or other cognitive impairment. However, hospitals, banks and other institutions need proof that you are the designated decision-maker. If your parent wants to make you their power of attorney, that should be legally documented.
4. Healthcare Documents
Even if your parent is in good health, there are certain documents that are required to apply for insurance and benefits. They’ll also come in handy if your loved one experiences a medical emergency and needs to be admitted to a hospital. Ask your parent for a copy of their living will or advance healthcare directive, which states their preferences and what kind of care they want to receive if they become ill or incapacitated.
Some other important legal documents for aging parents include:
- Insurance card(s)
- Personal medical history
- Current medication list
- Account information for their long-term care insurance policy
- Emergency information sheet
Additionally, make sure you have a signed HIPAA release form that enables a hospital, health clinic or your parent's senior living community in West Seattle to share protected health information with you.
5. Personal Papers and Online Account Passwords
Lastly, don’t forget about miscellaneous papers and documents that might be necessary for you to assist your loved in booking travel, signing up for social services, applying for benefits or making arrangements for them to transition to an assisted living community. This includes their driver’s license; social security card; passport; birth certificate; military records; and marriage and/or divorce papers. Additionally, it is likely that your parent is storing a bit of data electronically and if they have their identity stolen or need to make changes to an automatic payment plan, you’ll need to be able to access online accounts. You should keep a list of their username and passwords for various websites. Additionally, compile information about any safe deposit boxes and the location of their keys.
In addition to collecting important legal documents for your senior loved one, you must ensure they are kept safe and accessible for when you need to use them. You can store them in a safe deposit box or fire-proof safe. Another option is to keep them with an attorney.
Caring for Your Aging Loved One in Seattle
Whether your elderly parent is currently residing at their home in Seattle or has transitioned to a senior living community, like Daystar Retirement Village, there may times where your help is needed to handle various financial and healthcare situations. Keeping important legal documents organized and accessible is critical for mitigating stress and efficiently managing unexpected emergencies.