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Important Paperwork To Consider As You Transition To Senior Living

Guest Blogger: Ann K.T. Warner, Warner Law Firm, LLC

Deciding to move to a senior care facility is a big decision. Whether you’re considering independent living, assisted living, or memory care, there are innumerable factors to consider when weighing your decision. When considering transitioning to senior care, it is critical to ensure your affairs are in order. This includes collecting or completing the necessary paperwork, making important decisions about your finances and healthcare, and ensuring those decisions are documented legally and communicated to your family and caregivers. 

Three crucial documents to have in place as you transition to senior care are a power of attorney, an estate plan, and a living will. 

Families should begin by having conversations about their plans. Although this may be an uncomfortable topic for parents and children to bring up, it often ends up being avoided until it is too late. Starting these conversations early can prevent confusion and strife later. 

Your family discussions should include information about finances and assets and also cover health care and end-of-life preferences. Seniors need to communicate and document their wishes and preferences to ensure these desires are carried out. 

Power of Attorney

A power of attorney is a legal authorization granted from one person, called the Principal, to a designated person or persons, called the Agent or Agents, that empowers the Agent to act on behalf of the Principal legally. This is a living document—meaning that it is ONLY in force during the person’s life and terminates at death. 

The Agent is granted authority to make decisions for the other regarding things such as property, finances, investments, or medical care. I advise clients that the threshold document that everyone needs is a power of attorney. Without that, no one can act on behalf of a person, including their spouse. 

There are two primary types of power of attorney (“POA”): financial and health care. 

A typical financial POA, also called a durable power of attorney, goes into effect immediately upon signing. Whereas, a healthcare power of attorney generally only goes into effect if individuals cannot make critical healthcare decisions. Both of these POAs are vital to have in place, and more importantly, communication around these sensitive issues can prevent confusion, anger, and guilt in the future. 

Establishing a power of attorney when an individual can make sound decisions helps establish important legal guidelines from which the Agent can make decisions based on the Principal’s wishes. 

Estate Plan

An estate plan is a legal plan that provides clear direction concerning the division and disbursement of a person’s assets. After a power of attorney, estate plan documents are the most important planning tools to ensure your wishes concerning your assets are carried out as you intend. An estate plan can be a Last Will and Testament or a Trust. Which one you choose largely depends on your individual situation, including the size of your family, types of assets, and legacy goals.  Various planning tools may help avoid the probate of assets after your death.

Living Will 

A living will is an advanced legal directive outlining an individual’s preferences for end-of-life medical care. It provides directives to help guide doctors, caregivers, and family in the case of illness or end-of-life decisions. Having a living will in place provides peace of mind for seniors, knowing that their healthcare wishes are clearly communicated and will be legally protected. 

These are the three primary documents seniors should have in place as they begin to make decisions about transitioning to senior care to ensure their financial and healthcare decisions are honored. 

Other documents to collect include:

  • Banking Information
  • Health Proxy/Medical Release Authorization (HIPAA)
  • Find DD214 Paperwork for Veterans – Honorable Discharge
  • Prescription medication lists
  • Transfer on death designation for a vehicle
  • Transfer on death designation for real property 
  • Tax documents 
  • Receipts/directions for interment – Funeral / Cremation / Burial plans

Discussions about finances, asset distribution, moving into senior care, healthcare, and end-of-life decisions can be uncomfortable. However, it is essential to have these discussions early and often. Being prepared can make a huge difference while living and after you have passed on. Proper legal documents, such as power of attorney, an estate plan, and a living will, can help you avoid drawn-out probate proceedings and familial strife. 

Ann Warner has been practicing law for nearly 20 years and is licensed in Ohio and Kentucky. She specializes in elder law, estate planning, and special needs planning. 

A close up of an elderly couple sitting on a couch with a woman with blonde hair sitting across from them holding up a piece of paperwork over a pile of paper. The woman with blonde hair is pointing down at the power and the elderly man has a pen up to the power with the elderly woman looking at him. Traditions logo at the bottom right corner.
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