Many people put off asking about their parents’ financial and legal affairs until faced with crisis – such as an unexpected illness or the death of a loved one. Too often, children find themselves sitting in a hospital room with a busy social worker, forced to make important, life-changing decisions without having all the information they need. Do they have Long-Term Care Insurance? A Living Will? Who is Power of Attorney? Where can they afford to go for rehabilitation if home is not an option? Where do they keep their checkbook and is anyone else listed on the account?
Whether you are an aging parent or the child of one, the 4 questions below will help you prepare ahead of time for inevitable life-changes and the decisions that come with them.  Having the conversation early, before you need it, will alleviate stress and empower your family with information. Then, if something happens, they can focus on more important things, like spending time with you and supporting each other.

  1. Do you have advanced directives? This includes Power of Attorney forms, a Health Care Proxy, Living Will, a Life Care Plan, etc. These documents are the first thing medical professionals will ask for when sharing health care information or if any medical decisions need to be made. Whether it’s as simple as sharing test results or as complex as making a decision about heroic measures, having these documents allows family members and care providers to act with confidence, knowing they are following Mom or Dad’s wishes.
  1. Do you have a financial advisor or attorney? Knowing who manages accounts and where documents are filed can make things much simpler if/when your family needs to access information. Even just having the contact information on file can save time and energy during stressful moments. This is also important so  you can feel confident that the person who is offering legal and financial advice is a reputable provider.
  1. Where do you keep important papers? Now, I know that we don’t all keep everything neatly filed in fire-safe boxes, alphabetized and cross-referenced by date. Most people have a specific file-folder, drawer or filing cabinet where this information is kept. And if not, then asking this question will help you realize how scattered the details are and something can be done to change that. This should include all of the following documents: birth certificate, marriage license, divorce paperwork, copy of driver’s license, social security card and military records, insurance paperwork. You can also download a copy of our BLG Essential Documents Checklist, to help you get started.
  1. If there ever comes a time when you can’t live safely at home, have you thought about where you would choose to live? One of the hardest decisions for families to make occurs when a loved one needs rehabilitation or long-term care. Some parents are willing to explore options ahead of time and can let you know what their wishes are. You can even reserve space prior to need, or get on a waiting list (sometimes up to five years) at a desirable senior apartment complex or assisted living facility. Parents: Sometimes just telling your adult children, “I don’t expect you to take care of me at home” can provide tremendous relief from guilt, if they ever need to choose an assisted living or nursing home on your behalf. And if you can’t say that your loved (or you) would be willing to move out of your own home, then it’s even more important to have your financial affairs in order. There are a variety of supportive services available to help seniors stay at home and independent for as long as possible, and there may even be benefits available to help pay for them.  By planning ahead and sharing financial/legal information with family and caregivers, you can minimize future stress and ensure that you will have the most options for care if/when the time comes.

CLICK HERE to DOWNLOAD a copy of the BLG Essential Documents Checklist to get started today.
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