By William E. Kelly | Senior Matters
In parts one and two of this series, we delved into six basic need categories common to all seniors and briefly talked about how the priorities of those needs vary from person to person, due to personal, financial, social and cultural differences, experiences and environments.
This final article of the series concerns a seventh and most crucial overlooked category, your legal preparations and the pertinent underlying documents.
This should include the set of current lawfully executed documents and papers that clearly direct how your assets, care and affairs are to be managed if, or when, for any reason you can no longer manage them on your own.
Jeffrey Anderson writes a blog for A Place For Mom. It is a for-profit organization based in Seattle that claims to be “The Nation’s Largest FREE Senior Care Referral Service.” Just type — or ask someone to help you do an internet search for — “Jeffrey Anderson Documents Prepared Families Cannot Ignore” or go directly to tinyurl.com/b8fuh55.
It is well worth reading his comments and you can indeed find lots of free, useful information through their website.
What documents should you have organized in one location? Is that location known by trusted family, heirs and/or your legal and financial advisors, who are entrusted with managing your affairs, care and assets if you are alive, but unable to do so or after your death?
Here is a list to keep handy and make sure the documents are up to date.
Financial documents: bank accounts; pension documents; 401(k) information; annuity contracts; tax returns; savings bonds; stock certificates; brokerage accounts; partnership and corporate operating agreements; deeds to all property; vehicle titles; documentation of loans and debts, including all credit accounts; and durable financial power-of-attorney (financial proxy).
Health care documents: health care proxy (durable health power-of-attorney); authorization to release health care information; living will (health care directive); personal medical history; insurance card (Medicare, Medicaid, Independent); and long-term care insurance policy.
End-of-life and estate planning documents: your will; trust documents; life insurance policies; end-of-life instructions letter (regarding wishes not covered in will, for example regarding memorial, or other items not covered in the will); and organ donor card.
Miscellaneous documents: marriage papers; divorce papers; list of online usernames and passwords; list of safe deposit boxes and the location all keys; military records; birth certificate; driver’s license; social security card; and passport.
Legal preparation requires qualified legal professionals and financial advisors. Locating the right professionals to work with depends on how much we can and are willing to pay for their services, or if we are unable to pay, where and what assistance is available to us in our local area.
In San Diego, there is no shortage of lawyers and financial advisors. If we don’t know where to begin, we can ask friends, family, personal acquaintances and colleagues and/or search (or ask someone for help searching) the vast wealth of information available on the internet.
By doing the due diligence discussed in this series you can assess your needs and reasonably identify and prepare for circumstances unique to your conditions. Or you can leave your future in the hands of strangers and hope for the best possible outcome. What will you do?
Remember, the internet is an unlimited source of free and very useful information. Some information is provided by for-profit entities and some information is provided by nonprofit entities. Internet links to entities quoted above are not to be construed as an endorsement of that entity but rather as a recommended source for whatever free information I found that they provided.
As always, questions and comments are welcomed and can be directed to me.
—Bill Kelly is a longtime local activist who currently focuses on LGBT senior issues and moderates the Caring for our LGBT Seniors in San Diego Facebook page. Access to the group is free to all seniors, their advocates, families, friends and caregivers. Reach Bill at email@example.com.