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Important Estate Planning Documents Your Parents Need Now

Important Estate Planning Documents Your Parents Need Now - Shaking Hands

Today, we’re diving into a topic that is absolutely crucial: estate planning for your parents. Specifically, the important estate planning documents your parents need now. As they gracefully navigate their golden years, ensuring their peace of mind (and yours!) becomes a top priority.

The questions you need to start asking now are:

  • How will you help them if they become ill or injured?
  • Who will take care of their bills and make sure their health needs are met?
  • How do they want to be cared for, if and when they cannot care for themselves?

The starting place is open conversation and a trio of estate planning tools: 

  • Durable Power of Attorney;
  • Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will; and
  • HIPAA Waiver.

Now, let’s break down why these tools are the unsung heroes of comprehensive estate planning for your parents, and how to bring them up so you can support your parents to get them created or updated.

1. General Power of Attorney (POA)

A Power of Attorney (or POA) grants a person you name (often a family member or trusted friend) the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. From handling bills to making investment decisions, the POA ensures that your financial matters are handled, whether you’re experiencing a temporary illness or a long-term inability to manage your money, such as in the case of memory problems.

If your parents have assets that you must be able to access easily in the event of their incapacity, you may decide that a POA for accessing their accounts is not sufficient, as it can be difficult to get access to bank accounts even with a POA in place and will require court action. In that case, the best course of action is to ensure that their assets are titled in the name of a trust, with you or someone your parents trust as the named successor Trustee. The successor Trustee can step in and handle financial matters for your parents, without any court involvement, when needed.

2. Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will

It is possible your parents already lean on you for guidance with their healthcare decisions, and it is equally possible they do not share details of their healthcare with you at all. No matter which side of the spectrum your parents stand on, the question of what will happen to their healthcare needs if they become seriously ill can feel overwhelming.

Thankfully, a Designation of Health Care Surrogate and Living Will allow your parents to explain their medical wishes to guide medical providers and family members on what treatments and life-saving measures they would like to have, even in the toughest of times.

The Designation of Health Care Surrogate designates someone to make these medical decisions on behalf of your parents if they are unable to do so. This trusted individual becomes the advocate, ensuring that healthcare choices align with your parents’ values and preferences.

Meanwhile, the Living Will outlines your parents’ wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments in the event they are unable to communicate. This document provides clarity amidst uncertainty, giving both your parents and their loved ones peace of mind that the decisions being made around their care are what they themselves would want.

3. HIPAA Waiver

In the digital age, privacy is paramount – but what happens when privacy becomes a barrier to essential healthcare-related communication? Enter the HIPAA Waiver, the ultimate tool for opening communication roadblocks in times of need.

HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects the privacy of individuals’ medical records. While this is crucial for safeguarding sensitive medical information, it can sometimes hinder the flow of communication between healthcare providers and family members, especially for the elderly and those incapacitated by an illness or injury.

By signing a HIPAA Waiver, your parents authorize specific individuals to access their medical information and speak directly to their medical providers, ensuring seamless communication and informed decision-making. This is essential in medical emergencies but is also extremely helpful if your parents need help hearing their doctor or understanding their medical advice.

How to Bring Up Estate Planning With Your Parents

The best way to bring up estate planning with your parents is to get your own planning handled first. Then, let your parents know that in the process of handling your own planning, your lawyer raised the question of whether you were an agent under anyone else’s power of attorney, or named as a successor Trustee in your parents’ Trust, or if you are going to be caring for aging parents at some point.

Why the Urgency?

You might be thinking, “Why the rush? Can’t we tackle this later?” Here’s the scoop: Life is unpredictable, and procrastination can be a costly gamble. Waiting until a crisis strikes to get these tools in place can lead to a whirlwind of legal and emotional chaos, leaving your parents’ wishes unfulfilled and their affairs in disarray.

By proactively planning ahead, you’re not just checking items off a to-do list – you’re investing in everyone’s peace of mind.

Don’t wait until it’s too late – schedule a free initial consultation with us today to learn more.


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As your parents navigate their golden years and to ensure their peace of mind - and your own - make sure your parents have these 3 documents in place now.
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