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5 Legal Documents Every Senior Needs

Old age happens. It is inevitable, and it is best faced on a multi-generational basis. The families that are most able to handle what is almost always an incredibly challenging time – Very Old Age with their seniors – are the ones that have prepared well. This preparation allows adult children and parents to focus on healthcare, living arrangements and maintaining a loving and attentive relationship between the generations.

A big part of this preparation includes executing key legal documents while everyone is healthy and in good shape, cognitively. Waiting until seniors are in physical or cognitive decline to execute any of these documents presents challenges for the family.

Here are the five documents that every senior should execute:

1. A Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

This allows someone other than the senior to manage the senior’s financial affairs, pay bills, sell property, enter into contracts, maintain access to bank accounts, and other, similar matters.

2. A Durable Power of Attorney for Healthcare and for Health Information Release

This document allows someone other than the senior to make important healthcare decisions. It also allows the person holding the Power of Attorney to get and give healthcare information about the senior from healthcare providers like doctors and hospitals.

3. Medical Directive

This important document is also known as a Living Will or an Advanced Healthcare Directive. It describes the wishes, the directives of the senior if they become extremely ill or incapacitated.

4. A Revocable Living Trust

This document places a variety of assets like property and investments into a trust, allowing the senior to control the trust and determine how their assets will be distributed. In most cases, placing assets into a trust allows them to pass directly to beneficiaries upon the death of the senior, avoiding probate and many inheritance taxes.

5. A Will

A properly written will lists all a person’s assets (including those held in trusts) and makes in clear to whom the assets are to be distributed. It can be vital in avoiding family strife after the passing of a parent.

What Happens Without These Documents?

If a senior is declared cognitively incompetent to make decisions and there is no POA for Healthcare set up, a Guardianship for the senior needs to be established. This is an expensive and time-intensive process. Similarly, if there is no will or trust established by the senior, assets then go through probate upon the passing of the senior. This process can take many months and result in significant, unnecessary expenses.

Preparing Documents

All of the documents listed above can be printed off the internet or bought inexpensively from an internet legal document source. On the other hand, many families, particularly those with significant assets, choose to work with an experienced attorney working in Elder Law. In the greater NYC/Long Island area, preparation of all these documents by an experienced attorney will cost $5,000 – $10,000.