No one wants to think of the “what-ifs” in life. Worrying about the future never helped anyone, but planning for the future is something every person should think about. Especially as an elderly person, planning becomes a vital preface to assure you and your loved ones will be taken care of in the case of any medical emergency.
Consider this situation: Betty, a 70-year-old lady was stuck with the task of caring for her family's finances when her husband, the long-time financier, suffered a stroke that left him impaired. She was confused, frustrated, and fearful. She had never been taught how to care for their finances and suddenly found herself in uncharted waters.
Those circumstances happen all too often. Rather than waiting for a medical emergency to begin preparations, take time now to make arrangements for the day when you can't handle your own financial or legal matters. Here are a few ways to plan for that time of your life:
Gather important documents. While it's nearly impossible to prepare for every emergency situation, gathering vital documents and keeping them in a secure location will help you point people to them if you are impaired. Documents like your birth certificate, Social Security card, bank statements, tax records, and a document of passwords and account numbers. Here are some other documents you should consider gathering:
• birthplace and birth date
• education and military records
• names of employers and dates of employment
• full legal name
• legal residence
• location of living will
• location(s) of birth, death, marriage, divorce, and citizenship, and adoption certificates
• prescribed medications and other regularly taken vitamins, medications, and supplements
• group memberships and awards received
• names and phone numbers of close friends, spouse, children, relatives, attorney, financial advisor, doctors, and religious contacts
• Social Security number
• Financial Records
• copy of most recent tax return
• credit and debit card names and numbers
• insurance information (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and agents' names and phone numbers
• investment income (stocks, bonds, property) and stockbrokers' names and phone numbers
• liabilities, including property tax (what is owed, to whom, when payments are due)
• location of most recently updated will with an original signature
• location of original deed of trust for home and car title and registration
• location of safe deposit box and key
• mortgages and debts (when and how they're paid)
• names of your bank(s) and account number(s) (checking, savings, credit union)
• Social Security and Medicare information; sources of income and assets (retirement funds, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.)
Keep these items in a home safe, bank deposit box, or let your lawyer store them for you.
Keep a trusted person involved. Having the documents gathered and in one place is step one, but it does not good if no one knows where the items are. Find a trustworthy friend, family member, or even your lawyer to tell of the location of the items should anything happen. You don't have to divulge your private information to them; simply let them know the location and how to retrieve the documents.
Make legal preparations. Certain legal documents can help you allocate power of your estate, medical decisions, and legal issues to a trusted person before you lose the ability to make such decisions yourself. Talk to your lawyer about setting up a living will (make arrangements for yourself ahead of time) or a durable power of attorney (appoint someone to make the decisions for you).
While medical emergencies can be a fearful time, make sure that your loved ones aren't burdened with caring for your estate without direction. Begin planning for such a situation today.
If you would like more information concerning Veterans Benefits, Medi-Cal, or estate planning, visit www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com today. www.EstatePlanningSpecialists.com is a comprehensive online resource for VA benefits, elder law, estate planning and related issues. As Board Certified Specialists in Estate Planning, Trusts and Probate as certified by the State Bar of California Board of Legal Specialization, Mark E. Thompson and Kevin L. Von Tungeln are expertly equipped to serve clients with the creative, effective and custom solutions they demand.