As I get older, and as I watch others age, it becomes even more apparent that life is short and very fragile. You can make this aging process difficult for your family or you can significantly increase their pain and problems by ignoring the reality of aging and of the potential problems you might face as you age. Do not forget to share your keys! What keys? Look at the end for the answer.
The link to the “Caring.com” article below says it well. There are three reasons to make sure you take the time to get the right documents in place before they are needed. The three reasons are:
- You will still be able to communicate your wishes when you are thinking most clearly. You must be competent to execute legal documents. Don’t assume you will always be as sharp tomorrow as you are today. My mother-in-law was a sharp lady who could manage her finances and her own healthcare without help. That is no longer true.
- You will save time and money. If you don’t act before you are unable to make decisions, your failure will translate into extra costs and extra wasted time on the part of those who would like to help you. Guardianship through the court system is not cheap or efficient. It does take time to prepare and to have serious conversations with your family, but this is time well spent.
- You preserve your autonomy to advocate for yourself. By creating Power of Attorney documents, you are actually advocating for your own financial and health care.
You should complete these legal documents while you are still competent and thoughtful:
- Revocable Living Trust (ask your attorney if this is right for your needs or not)
- Beneficiaries named for all applicable retirement, bank and insurance accounts. Make certain you have set up POD (Payable on Death) documents for bank accounts.
- Power of Attorney for finances
- Power of Attorney for health care
Now here are the promised keys. When my father died there were some cabinets we could not open because we could not find the keys. We also did not know where all of his hiding places were in my parent’s rambling Wisconsin ranch home. That was frustrating and, at times, an adventure. Here are the things you should share with someone you trust (your power of attorney):
- The location of important paper documents.
- A list of the businesses you access online with phone numbers, account numbers and relevant related information. This might include credit card companies, investment companies, banks, insurance companies and other valuable financial or healthcare providers.
- A means for them to access your accounts. For example, with Fidelity Investments I can access my mother-in-law’s accounts and perform the same tasks she could if she was capable of doing so.