Caring for Aging Parents

Four Essential Estate Planning Documents

Prepared By: Hillary P. Gagnon, Esq.

Many of us have undertaken or anticipate undertaking the care of our aging parents. Although it may be difficult to discuss end of life issues with our parents, such discussions and pre-planning are essential. Understanding your parents' wishes with regard to such things as healthcare, living arrangements, end of life medical treatment, finances, and asset distribution can provide great guidance and comfort as you attempt to honor and carry out those wishes. It is also important to ensure that your parents and loved ones have the necessary estate planning documents in place in order to avoid unnecessary court involvement and expense as you carry out those wishes.

Four essential estate planning documents your parents should put in place:

1. Financial Power of Attorney appointing you or another family member or close friend as agent to manage your parents' financial and legal affairs in the event of incapacity. Without a durable power of attorney, you will need to petition the court to be appointed conservator of your parent's estate in order to take control and manage his or her financial affairs and are then required to file an annual accounting with the court.

2. Health Care Power of Attorney appointing you or a family member or close friend as agent to make healthcare decisions for your parent if he or she is not able to make such decisions. Without a health care power of attorney you or another family member will need to seek court appointment to be the guardian of your parent in order to properly care for his or her medical, living and personal needs.

3. Living Will instructing your parent's health care power of attorney, family and doctors what treatment, if any, he or she wants in the event of a terminal medical condition or irreversible coma.

4. Last Will and Testament designating to whom your parents wish to leave assets upon their death. Without a will, the law controls the distribution of your parents' property. Your parents should also consult with an attorney to determine if a trust is necessary. Assets held in a trust avoid probate. Trusts also have many other uses that may greatly benefit the family.

It is important to discuss long term care and end of life wishes directly with your loved ones and family while they are still able to express such wishes and prepare and sign the necessary documents to assist you in caring out those wishes. Having these discussions and making sure the proper documents are in place will provide you the security to know that you are in the best position to care for and protect your parents and your parents' assets.

If you or your family need guidance regarding the legal.htmlects of caring for an aging parent, estate planning, guardianships and conservatorships, or trust and estate administration, the estate planning and probate attorneys at Jennings Haug Cunningham are available to help.

The information provided in this article is offered for informational purposes and does not offer legal advice to readers about specific situations. You should consult an attorney for advice regarding your individual situation.