March 25

3 Estate Planning Documents Your Parents Need

As your parents gracefully navigate their golden years, ensuring their peace of mind (and yours!) becomes a priority. One of the very best things you can do for your own future, and that of your entire future lineage - your children, grandchildren, and beyond - is to take great care of the people you were born to or raised by.

The questions to start asking 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 power trio of estate planning tools swoop in to save the day: the General Power of Attorney, the Power of Attorney for Healthcare (including a Living Will), and the HIPAA Waiver. 

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, no matter their net worth.

1. General Power of Attorney (POA)

A General 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 General 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 you trust as the named successor Trustee, who can step in and handle financial matters for your parents, without any court involvement, when needed.

2. Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Will

It’s possible your parents already lean on you for guidance with their healthcare decisions, and it’s equally possible they don’t 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 — and trust me, it’s even more overwhelming during moments of medical crisis.

Thankfully, a Power of Attorney for Healthcare 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’d like to have, even in the toughest of times.

The Power of Attorney for Healthcare designates someone to make these medical decisions on behalf of your parents if they're 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 – also known as a Declaration to Physicians – outlines your parents' wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments in the event they're unable to communicate. From CPR to artificial hydration, 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.

And, if you have worked with a lawyer and they didn’t ask you those questions, give us a call and let’s review your plan and your parents’ planning to make sure that everything you’ll need is dialed in. This can all get quite messy very quickly, and now is the time to talk with your parents.

The Sooner the Better

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 your parents' peace of mind and yours.

Don't wait for a storm to hit – schedule a 15-minute call today to learn how our unique Life & Legacy Planning process is designed with your family's well-being in mind, offering personalized guidance and support every step of the way. Contact us today to get started.

This article is a service of Ralston Law, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. 

The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.

Proper estate planning can keep your family out of conflict, out of court, and out of the public eye. If you’re ready to create a comprehensive estate plan, contact us to schedule your Planning Session. Even if you already have a plan in place, we will review it and help you bring it up to date to avoid heartache for your family. Schedule online today.

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