“Once a health care emergency strikes, it may be too late to prepare these documents.”
Thoughtful planning for any contingency when caring for elderly loved ones means preparing several legal papers and documents in advance of an emergency. You should speak with them about getting their affairs in order and detailing their wishes on health care, while they’re still of sound mind and body.
Las Cruces Sun-News published an article recently about this topic, “Getting affairs in order,” that suggests if you have siblings or other relatives, you need to think about who will be the health care proxy.
Consider who among you shares similar views and values about life and medical decisions as your loved one. You should also name an alternate proxy. It’s important to have a detailed living will, so that the loved one can choose the amount of authority the proxy will have over their medical care and the types of decisions he or she can make. Make sure that the proxy and alternate are comfortable with this responsibility. He or she must then complete the legal forms detailing their wishes. Start the process by talking with their doctor and consulting with an elder law attorney.
Failing to plan in advance may result in your inability to gain access to the information you need or to act on your loved one’s behalf, if they’re unable to do so. You can avoid time-consuming and costly court fights by working with your loved one to prepare these documents.
Other important health care documents include a medical directive or a “living will” that describes the kind of care your loved one wants to receive if and when they become ill or incapacitated. This must be completed while your loved one is of sound mind and can decide what treatments they want to receive.
A durable power of attorney for health care allows you to make health care decisions for your loved one. On the other hand, a durable power of attorney for finances lets you manage your loved one’s financial affairs. A HIPAA release says that you have access to their health records and medical staff.
Another important document is a revocable living trust. This allows your loved one to retain control over their estate, while making transfers of his or her assets to beneficiaries. They select property to go into the trust and who will receive it. During their lifetime, they act as trustees (managers) of their own living trust. A revocable living trust allows the estate to avoid probate at the time of death.
Finally, make sure that a will is prepared that will state who will receive your loved one’s assets and personal property.
Once an attorney has worked with you and your loved one to draft and execute these documents, make sure they’re accessible and in a safe place.
Reference: Las Cruces Sun-News (January 1, 2017) “Getting affairs in order”