The three legal documents no senior should be without

Legal issues: The three documents every senior should have

Every adult, but especially every senior, should have three essential legal documents:

  • A will
  • A “Living Will” or advanced directives
  • A Durable Power of Attorney (DPOA)

A will can be simple or complicated depending on your situation.  If you believe your estate may be subject to estate taxes or want to set up trusts, then consulting an attorney to draw up the document(s) is advised.  Sign the original copy of the will in front of a notary.  Never keep your original will in a bank safe deposit box. In many states your safe deposit is locked immediately after you die. File the original safely with an attorney or in a fireproof box at home and review it every two years. You want to keep your will as current as possible.

Advanced directives exist to protect you and your wishes in the event you become incapacitated.  This important document is often overlooked.  Only 20% of Americans have this in place according to the American Medical Association.  It spells out exactly what you want done, including what treatments you do and do not want used.  To be effective this document must be as detailed as possible; leave no room for misinterpretation.  Your doctor should have a copy to keep with your medical records.  You may also want to register your advance directives online at www.livingwillregistry.com

Many decisions need to be made if you become incapacitated.  With a durable power of attorney, you designate someone to make decisions for you in healthcare and financial matters.  These are actually two documents and you may appoint two different people or have several people share the responsibility of decision making.  A problem may arise, however, if you appoint more than one person, and they do not agree.

The best course of action is to have a reputable attorney that your trust draw up these documents for you, and review them with you regularly.  Many times we at Sound Options have worked with families who are woefully unprepared to give needed assistance to aging parents because these documents are not in place.  A healthcare crisis is not the time to discover this. Do yourself and your loved ones a favor by getting these important documents drawn up!

Published on April 19, 2012.