5 Documents Your Older Parent Needs

Published Friday, March 08, 2013 7:52 PM

Remember that awkward birds-and-the-bees chat with your parents about a zillion years ago? Now, as your parents approach retirement, it's time for another slightly uncomfortable talk: this time about finances and legal paperwork. Even if your parents are still active and healthy, the day will come when they need assistance. Make sure to prepare five key documents to protect their finances and health. And if you have children of your own, do them a favor by getting these documents for yourself.


Everyone needs a will, regardless of age and assets. Without a will, the courts will follow state law to distribute your assets. A will makes clear how you wish your personal effects to be distributed and helps avoid disagreements over the estate after death.

Revocable Living Trust

If you die with only a will in place, the courts need to undergo a process known as probate, a legal stamp of approval, which can cost as much as five percent of an estate and take up to a year. Talk about inheriting a legal tangle! Spare your heirs this process by setting up a revocable living trust, which allows you to retain control over your estate while making transfers to beneficiaries. Upon death, the trust protects the estate from probate.

Living Will 

Also known as a medical or health directive, a living will allows your parent to spell out what type of care your loved one wishes to receive if they become terminally ill and incapacitated.

Durable Power of Attorney for Health-Care

Ask your parent to designate a trusted person with a durable power of attorney to make healthcare decisions in case of incapacitation. Make sure it has a HIPPA release that allows access to health records and physicians.

Durable Power of Attorney for Finances 

Make managing your loved one's bills possible with this document which allows you to administer your loved one's financial affairs, pay their bills, dispose of property, etc.  



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