With the holidays here, we’re making November “Family Month” to focus on caring for your aging loved ones, and planning ahead for the future. Your parent or grandparent may have already made plans and arrangements but hasn’t shared them with you yet. There may also be important legal documents they’ve already completed, but they’re filed away somewhere you don’t know. It’s also possible they’ve been putting the whole thing off and don’t want to think about it.
Whether it’s around the holidays or shortly after, it’s important to discuss long-term healthcare and important legal and medical documents with your aging loved ones. The important documents to consider and discuss affect how their finances, personal property and health are taken care of as they age and even after their death. These include items such as wills, advanced care directives, and life insurance policies.
Finances and Personal Property
A will includes how an individual’s personal property, real estate, and finances will be distributed after they pass. For example, Grandma’s favorite clock might be given to the grand niece. Or money in the bank account could be given to a college fund for a child.
If you don’t have a will yet, it’s a good idea to put one in place. Unfortunately, accidents do happen. It’s good for your loved ones to know what your wishes are in case of an unexpected death.
It’s also helpful to know who the family attorney is, or at least the one who created the will. Take the extra step to introduce yourself to the family attorney, if you haven’t already met them. Your parent or grandparent may have a personal banker at one of the local banks. If you’re visiting from out of town, it would be good to introduce yourself to them, too. Just so you’re a familiar face to them and you know specifically who to contact when the time comes.
Durable Financial Power of Attorney
Usually, Durable Financial Power of Attorney document gives you person permission to execute financial transactions on behalf of your loved one. For example, you could legally pay the bills for someone who is aging and unable to do it themselves and sign your name to their checks.
Advanced Care Directives
Another important legal document is an Advanced Care Directive. It defines what life saving procedures will take place, to what extent they’ll take place, and the kind of medical care wanted. This is particularly helpful for an for an incident like a car accident.
Durable Power of Attorney
A durable power of attorney (DPA) for healthcare appoints someone to make medical decisions on their behalf. It becomes active any time you are unconscious or unable to make medical decisions.
DNR (Do Not Resuscitate)
A DNR document can be part of an Advanced Care Directive or stand on its own. It tells medical care professionals not to use CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) if your heart stops beating.
Has your loved one chosen to be an organ donor? It will say on the driver’s license, although that’s not always on hand. Knowing their wishes on this topic can help you to be supportive and emotionally prepared for what that could involve.
Life Insurance Policy
Life insurance money can be used several different ways. It can be used for burial expenses, for something to be left for family members, or to provide income for the surviving parent to take care of children.
There are primarily two types of life insurance policies, a term policy and a whole life policy. A term policy is for a specific amount of time. A whole life policy is a more permanent insurance for a person’s life span. The term insurance is less expensive than whole life because of the time period. You’re buying for a specific time, such as 10, 20, or 30 years. Because of the time frame, a term policy might not have a payable event.
Which is right for you? A term life insurance policy could be used when you have young children at home and your husband travels a lot, since the chance of an accident is greater. Maybe a 10 or 20 year policy to cover until the kids get out of college. In this case, it’s protection that your standard of living would be maintained and your children could be cared for in the event you become a single parent.
Whereas a permanent life insurance policy will have a payable event at the end of your life. These policies are designed to leave a benefit to family members. They would also be helpful for funeral and burial expenses too. They’ll be more expensive because from the company’s perspective, a payable event is guaranteed.
Plan for the Future
Discussing these documents and details isn’t meant to be a sad conversation, but more of a practical planning decision. You need to know what documents have been completed, identify their locations, and see if any changes need to be made.
It’s better to have a plan for your aging loved ones as early as possible, while their health and mental faculties are still in place. They can be actively involved in the kind of legacy they want to leave. Plus, it takes the burden off you to try to make these important decisions on your own in a crisis. Discussing important documents with your loved ones gives peace of mind on both sides.