Although few people feel comfortable discussing it, there comes a time for elderly parents to make legal preparations for important end-of-life decisions. Rather than simply waiting for the end and leaving a puzzle to be sorted out by loved ones, a person with a healthy mind and body can, and should, decide now to ease the future burden on his or her children and grandchildren.
If other family members are counting on parents for income, or parents simply wish to leave funds to pay for funeral or other costs, a life insurance policy is an excellent choice. Life insurance is not limited to the elderly, and even younger, healthy people are eligible for life insurance. A life insurance policy will make funds available to designated heirs after death. Parents, in particular, should consult with a life insurance agent to see which options fit their financial plans.
Aging parents should also have an advanced care directive – a living will. In some states, the law requires that this be accompanied by a power of attorney spelling out the parent’s wishes regarding end-of-life medical care and empowering someone to see that those wishes are carried out. In other states, the law combines the two into a single document.
The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) guards the privacy of patient medical records. As part of end-of-life care, one should execute a HIPAA release that grants trusted family members the right to see their medical records. Late in life, a person in poor health may decide that they don’t want to be revived in the event their respiratory systems fail. A Do-Not-Resuscitate (DNR) order should be obtained and posted in their home.
As people get older, they often have trouble managing personal finances. If problems like Alzheimer’s are beginning to affect them, they can obtain a power of attorney giving a family member control of their finances. It should be specified “durable” so that it remains in effect if the person is unable to function.
Making a will can ensure that a person’s possessions are disposed of as they choose. The legal will makes sure the state does not take charge of disposing of their property. The will should provide guidance on the ways they wish their assets to be disposed of. For parents, this step is particularly important, as dividing property between children can cause dissent, especially when there is no will. It’s always advisable that they consult a specialist to make sure the disposal of property is followed as they wish. You should look for a wills and trusts attorney in Palm Beach to do this correctly.
If your parents have considerable assets, state law may require disposal through probate court. If their assets exceed the state’s minimum amount to initiate probate, they should obtain a revocable living trust, which is similar to a will but ensures their assets will be handled without having to go through the courts.
All these related documents, from wills to insurance policies, should be kept in a safe place, such as a fireproof safe. They should make sure that family members know where to find these documents in the case of their deaths.
There is no easy way to have a conversation about end-of-life decisions, including wills and life insurance. But putting those processes into place while people are still healthy will provide peace of mind.
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