daughter showing mother how to be legally proactive with papers on desk and a laptop

9 Ways to be Legally Proactive with Aging Parents

January 20, 2023

Be Legally Proactive with Aging Parents

When it comes to our parents and loved ones who are nearing or past retirement age, being legally proactive in how to take care of them when they eventually need more care than they can do on their own will put you, and them, miles ahead of their transition to a new way of living when that time comes. If you’re not prepared for the legal side of this, you will find this process even more overwhelming.

Fortunately, there are several things you can do to proactively prepare you, and them, for what may lie ahead. Here are nine things you’ll want to do to be proactively prepared.

young couple talking with aging parents about being legally proactive

1) Have the conversation early

Now is the time to talk with your aging parents or loved ones about the legalities that will come when they need additional care. From the minor life interruption, such as a small injury or illness, to a major life change, it is important for all of you to have a plan and understand what you’ll need to do if those events come to pass.

This will give you peace of mind that you’ll know what to do when Mom and Dad need more care than they, or you, can provide them. They, too, will have more peace of mind, knowing that you are all on the same page when it comes to their well-being. They’ve taken care of you, now it’s your turn.

an elderly couple getting legally proactive by talking with female elder law attorney

2) Get to know a lawyer familiar with elder law

There can’t be enough said for having a good lawyer, and this is especially true if you’re navigating the fields of elder care. There is a lot to know and be aware of. Legally speaking, an elder law attorney (also known as older adult law attorneys) act as advocates for people over 65 and their families.

They know the ins and outs of preparing important documents such as wills, powers of attorney and understand where Medicare/Medicaid comes into play, plus a great deal more. These are the people you want to call when you want a solid estate plan, and to help put your loved one’s best legal and financial foot forward.

a daughter helping her mother be legally proactive by helping her fill out her will

3) Where there’s a will…

We’re not just talking about the last will and testament. There are actually several types of wills just with seniors and their care alone. You might not need most of them, but the older adult law attorney we mentioned above, will help you understand what you need.

With elder care, there are generally two types of wills. Last will and testament and a living will.

Last will and testament is probably exactly what you think it is. It has to do with what happens to a loved one’s assets and possessions once they pass. There are several sub-categories this type of will can fall into. If you’re having trouble figuring out how to “have the conversation early” as we mentioned above, this might be a good place to start. Open the conversation with finding out if they have a will, and if not, start the process of getting one put together.

A living will is one you might not be aware of. Don’t feel bad – many people aren’t aware until it’s needed. And at that point, possibly too late.

What a living will does is, provide legal direction on what a person’s wishes are with their medical care when they are no longer able to speak for themselves. This is an important one. And you need to talk this over with your loved ones. In a medical situation, you’ll not only know what their wishes are, you’ll also have the legal power to act on their behalf.

a gavel on a desk and hands going over a power of attorney document with an person at the other side of the desk

4) Power of Attorney

Much like a will, there are several different versions of powers of attorney, and again, this is where contacting a family elder law attorney will shed light on which would be best for you and your loved one.

In a nutshell, a power of attorney gives a designated person the legal ability to make decisions regarding another individual’s medical care, finances, property, and other important legal decisions. With this in place, making these decisions for your loved one will be something you can legally do on their behalf, especially if they start having a hard time doing it themselves.

This is why having that conversation early is important – so you are prepared and have an exact understanding of what your loved one’s wishes are. For more information check out our you tube channel video titled What Is A Power of Attorney?

young professional showing elderly woman healthcare proxy documents

5) Healthcare proxy

A healthcare proxy designates someone to make medical decisions on you or a loved one’s behalf should they become unable to make these decisions themselves. This might sound similar to a power of attorney, and in many ways it is. The difference is that a health care proxy is strictly for healthcare, and it’s a pretty powerful designation. It grants the person the ability to make decisions without the need to consider other family members or the opinions of medical providers.

This is not a light legal assignment. The person chosen to be someone’s healthcare proxy should be one the person trusts implicitly. And the person being the proxy should know and understand the full weight of what this means. It isn’t to be taken lightly.

close up image of an advanced directive document laid out over an American flag image

6) Advance directive

This is quite possibly one of the most important collections of documents a senior can have. It states what should happen when a person has reached an end of life status. It directs what type of comfort and care should be provided. It deals with Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) and Do Not Intubate (DNI) as well as what happens with organs and tissues when a person passes.

This directive will also help put family members at ease, as it explicitly and legally states what a person’s end of life wishes are. Outside of the parameters of what to do at this time, it also can stop family arguments, potential legal proceedings and put the family at ease knowing that the wishes of their loved one is being followed to the literal letter of the law.

senior couple on couch going over banking documents

7) Bank and financial documents

Likely, this will coincide with some form of a power of attorney. It will become important for the family member who will be caring for the loved one as they slow down and require more care. If possible, adding a trusted family member to bank accounts and other financial accounts will help the process of paying for care through these accounts, or closing them when the time arrives to do so.

Having information, and in some cases access to, pensions and retirement funds will be important. There will be many, many reasons for you to have knowledge of where your loved one holds their insurance plans, other finances and banking accounts. It’s important to make sure their care can be paid for, and at the end of life, make sure the right beneficiaries receive the remaining benefits as they are to be disbursed.

an elderly couple going over ownership documents

8) Ownership documents

Similar to bank and financial documents, having access to, or keeping on file yourself, documents that show what your loved ones own will be helpful. These assets may need to be sold to pay for care or may need to be disbursed to beneficiaries upon their passing.

For example, you’ll want access to property deeds and titles, vehicle titles, business ownership documents, etc. This all comes down to understanding your loved one’s assets and knowing how and where they are when the need arises.

an older couple getting legally proactive with their documents

9) Proactive preparation

There is a lot to consider when it comes to the legal aspect of your loved one’s care. Being proactive and gathering all of this, as far in advance as possible, will put you and your loved one in a great place when the time comes for them to take advantage of additional care.

You’ll understand what their wishes are, what their financial situation is and you’ll both have the peace of mind knowing that someone who cares deeply about them, will be ready to look after their best interests.

It is completely understandable to feel overwhelmed by all of this. There’s so much that goes into elder care, and we’re really just scratching the surface here. In addition to an elder law attorney, there are also senior placement specialists who can help you navigate all of this. A senior placement specialist should be able to help you be proactive and get ahead of the game or guide you through how to navigate the necessary steps in the case of an emergency.

We might just know of someone.