by: Tehila Mörtl
As we continue in the discussion regarding seniors move, addressed today will be information on legal documents and that which one cannot afford to do without.
Throughout our lives we accumulate a massive numbers of important documents including, certificates and records all beginning with our birth certificate. More often than not, the need for a specific document comes unexpectedly so it is wise to have everything organized and easily accessible. I have learned from personal experience, how crucial it is to maintain information as to who and where to contact including phone number(s), address, etc. in the event of an emergency or death of one’s spouse or parent. One of the greatest gifts my spouse ever gave me was a four-inch, black binder he so lovingly and with great effort and detail assembled which, contained every bit of information possible not only with contacts but, what questions I should ask and necessary steps to take after his death. These included but were certainly not limited to life and health insurance plans, work and other benefits, social security, memorial park arrangements and the list just goes on and on. As I went through each page, I remember being astounded by the amount of material that black binder contained and thinking to myself if it were not for his time and dedication, I would not know where to even begin.
With having been through this experience personally and having witnessed the difficulties unpreparedness can result in, I feel it important to include vital information on maintaining legal, financial, healthcare, end of life and other important documents to protect one’s self and family members. While most of us are advisably prudent about preserving our privacy, by having a designated individual who can locate all necessary documentation, particularly for elders, in the event of a medical emergency or death is imperative. In addition, while it is not necessary to disclose every detail of one’s finances, colossal problems can arise when an elder’s family member is not familiar with what bank accounts, assets and pensions one has or where to locate such information. Further, without a clear understanding of a senior’s financial situation, family members cannot be fully aware, for example, of whether their elder can afford the care needed or care they feel their loved one would choose for themselves. Privacy and preparation for such an event is not mutually exclusive, as one can establish with their elder where to locate documents and information should the need arise.
As we continue, while not every document included in the listings below will be pertinent to every individual, this will be a good place to start in establishing what is of most importance.
When One Might Need Official Documents:
- · Hospitalization
- · Relocation to a senior community, nursing facility or hospice care
- · Displacement due to an emergency or natural disaster
- · Applying for state, federal, or veteran benefits
- · Home sale
- · Litigation
Access to financial documents such as tax returns, banking accounts and investments can ensure the process will not be delayed when applying for benefits (i.e. VA, Medicaid). Not only does the lack of access to such information cause great inconvenience but, can result in a senior not obtaining the care required in a timely fashion; thereby placing serious financial hardships on family members. In addition, maintaining an up-to-date listing of information such as one’s bank records allows the senior’s heirs to locate their loved one’s savings when settling an estate.
- · Durable Financial Power of Attorney, also known as a “Financial Proxy”
- · List of all checking and savings accounts
- · Pension documents such as 401(k) information, and annuity contracts
- · Tax returns
- · Savings bonds, stock certificates and brokerage accounts
- · Partnerships and corporate agreements
- · Mortgage records
- · Property deeds
- · Vehicle titles
- · Documentation of loans and debts, including all credit accounts
In the event a senior is incapacitated and cannot communicate, it is imperative that one’s elder has recorded their wishes in a Living Will, also known as a “Healthcare Directive”, which includes designation of who is to represent the senior in carrying out their wishes. During such emergencies, due to HIPPA laws and in protection of patient rights, physicians require proof that one has been appointed to make decisions, which would be stated in a Durable Power of Attorney, also known as an “Advanced Health Care Directive”. Not only is this critical to ensure appropriate care is provided but can be lifesaving in the occurrence of an emergency.
In addition to the above, medical records are necessary when submitting applications for benefits; as well as, during a seniors move into an elder community.
- · Personal medical history
- · Medication list including, prescription name, strength plus prescribed dosage
- · Listing of over-the-counter medications and natural remedies
- · Insurance cards (i.e. Independent insurance company, Medicare, Medicaid)
- · Durable Health Power of Attorney, also known as a “Health care proxy”
- · Authorization to release healthcare information, in accordance with HIPPA laws
- · Living will , also known as a “Healthcare Directive”
- · Hospitalization insurance
- · Long-term care insurance policy
End of life and Estate Planning Documents
The sorrow and devastation accompanying an elder’s demise can be increased significantly by the stress of sorting out one’s senior’s affairs. By ensuring one’s elder has appropriate documents concerning estate planning and end of life directives in place will relieve everyone involved of any unnecessary burden.
Essential End of Life Documents
- · End of life instructions which includes what is not covered in a will (i.e. memorial or funeral arrangements)
- · Organ donor card
- · Will
- · Trustee documents
- · Life-insurance policies
In regards to additional documents, in the event one’s elder is applying for veterans benefits, for example, he or she will be required to present marriage certificate(s) and military records. In order to exercise one’s right to vote, some states currently require either photo identification or birth certificate.
Additional Crucial Documents
- · Birth certificate
- · Driver’s license
- · Social Security card
- · Marriage certificate(s)
- · Divorce papers
- · Military records
- · Passport
- · List of safe deposit boxes and the location of keys
In addition to the above, one will also want to create a list of where original documents and other items can be located before, during and after a seniors move.
Listing of where to find
- · Safe-deposit box and keys - include a list of the contents and names of anyone who has access to it
- · Personal documents (i.e. birth certificate, Social Security card, marriage/divorce certificates, military records)
- · Any letter of instruction listing personal property not disposed of by will and final wishes for allocation
- · Receipts and appraisals for valuables
- · Financial information (i.e. bank, loan, trust, stocks, bonds, real estate and other investments)
- · Tax returns
- · Insurance policies
- · Legal documents (i.e. Living will, medical directives, Durable Power of Attorney)
- · Burial and desired funeral arrangements
Finally, one should have available a list of important contacts and accounts.
Listing of Contacts and Accounts
- · Clergy member(s)
- · Bank account, loan and credit card contacts
- · Attorney, financial planner, tax advisor, broker plus, anyone with knowledge of or control over trusts, wills and finances
- · Beneficiaries
- · Insurance agents (i.e. home, auto, health, life)
- · E-mail accounts and passwords
- · Social media accounts and passwords
- · Personal friends with names, numbers, land and e-mail addresses
Please keep in mind that ensuring essential documents are accessible during a seniors move is just as important as the process of organizing, assembling and securing such records. One might wish to create a master folder and keep this information in a secure place such as a fire-proof, home lock box, safe deposit box or with an attorney.
Whether you are ready to move as quickly as possible or you are just starting to think about this as an option, we encourage you to give us a call at 646-820-9202 and speak with one of our senior care consultants about seniors move. They will be able to assist you with making all the necessary arrangements and answer any questions you might have to begin the process. Most of the services we provide for our elderly clients and their families are completely free since we work on referral basis with firms we trust. If you are in NYC, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island or the Bronx please get in touch with us to learn how we can help you today.