No matter what age we are, it is vital that we have our estate planning documents in place. However, this area becomes especially important as we get older. For your parents who are getting older, you want to make sure they have all the necessary legal documents in place. As such, here are seven important questions you should ask your parents:
Do you have a Will or Trust? Wills and Trusts are legal methods to direct what happens to your possessions and assets when you pass. The best way to make your wishes clear is to have a Will or Trust that clearly states who will be in charge of your estate and who will receive your assets. When your parents' wishes are in writing, this can help avoid confusion and arguing among family members. It also keeps everyone on the same page as to what Mom and Dad wanted for their family.
Do you have a Power of Attorney? A financial Power of Attorney allows you to appoint someone (called an attorney-in-fact) to act on your behalf for financial matters in case you are not able to. For example, the attorney-in-fact can pay bills and write checks for you. As your parents get older, they may not be able to care for their financial matters anymore. It is important that they have a Power of Attorney in place before they reach that point.
Do you have Advance Directives for Health Care? Advance Directives for Health Care allow you to appoint an attorney-in-fact to act on your behalf for health care matters when you are unable to do so yourself. The attorney-in-fact would be able to make decisions for you regarding medication, end-of-life treatment, and health records. It is essential that your parents have this in place before they are unable to care for themselves.
Where can I find your legal documents if I need them? These legal documents won't be very helpful to your parents in an emergency if nobody knows where they are located or how to access them. Your parents should keep their documents at home where they are easily accessible at any time. If the documents are in a fire-safe, then make sure you have the combination and know how to get inside.
Are your documents current and up-to-date? Perhaps your parents created these documents many years ago, even decades ago. Make sure that the documents reflect your parents' current situation and current wishes. There may be new additions to or deaths in the family. Also, the laws and legal requirements can change so it is a good idea to have an estate planning attorney review your parents' documents so that they are up-to-date legally.
If you are unable to care for yourself at home, where would you prefer to live? Start the discussion early before your parents require assisted-living care. By involving your parents in the process, you can find out what their preferences are regarding assisted-living communities.
Do you have long-term care insurance? The cost for assisted-living and nursing home care can overwhelm your parents' financial situation. It's important to make sure they have some type of long-term care insurance in place or are planning for Medicaid. Read over the insurance policy to make sure you understand it and call the insurer if you have any questions about what is and is not covered.
By discussing these seven important questions with your aging parents, you can be better prepared to deal with the future and make sure your parents are prepared as well.