Preparing for Your Future - How to Get Your Affairs in Order

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Donna Mae Scheib

Preparing for Your Future - How to Get Your Affairs in Order

Posted by Donna Mae Scheib on March 14, 2019

Preparing for Your Future – How to Get Your Affairs in Order

Most people are reluctant to discuss and finalize the end of life healthcare and financial needs. They may not know what to do or even where to begin. What’s more? They most likely have many other things they would rather be doing.

But getting your affairs in order is something that is crucial before there is difficulty in making decisions or an unforeseen event or disabling condition/illness prevents you from offering input regarding medical care and finances.

By taking the time to do this, there will be less stress and worry. You will also avoid what is often a time-consuming and costly guardianship proceeding if you don’t indicate your wishes. You can enjoy your life!

Important Items to Take Care Of

Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for Health Care

This document provides an avenue for the senior to grant a trusted individual as a proxy to make medical decisions regarding health care providers, end-of-life care options, and organ/body donations on their behalf. In some states, this directive may also be called a health care proxy.

The person you select could be a spouse, another family member, a close friend, or a member of your faith community. Many people choose one or more alternates in case the person named is unable to fulfill the role.

The document also gives the proxy access to medical records and doctors. You should provide information regarding any health, dental, and/or vision insurance as well as about Medicare and Medicaid policies to the POA.

You may need to sign forms or give verbal permission with the assorted medical professions, facilities, and various insurance companies to expedite the communication process so the POA for Health Care can best intervene for you.

Durable Power of Attorney (POA) for Finances

This document allows a trusted individual (the agent) to make financial decisions (e.g., paying bills, selling the property, filing taxes, managing investments) on the senior’s behalf.

You should provide information on how to access savings and checking accounts from any banks and credit unions; investment data from various stockbrokers or stock holdings; and life insurance policies and carriers. You might consider adding the POA to bank accounts and investment accounts so they can more easily conduct the financial-related business for you. This can be set up via a phone call or with a written request.

 The POA should also have a listing of your sources of income and all of your assets (pension from employers, IRAs, 401(k)s, interest, etc.).

Any outstanding bills including mortgages and debts and all other bills that need to be paid routinely (e.g., amount, date to be paid, and address of where to pay) should be documented.

Property tax information should be listed to include the amount that is due, when the payments are due, and where the payments are to be sent.

Advance Healthcare Directive – Living Will

This document lets the person state their end-of-life wishes. It spells out instructions for the POA for Health Care to follow if you are unable to make decisions for yourself. This way there no guessing or disagreements about your preferences.

Each state has different forms and requirements for creating legal documents. Depending on where you live, a form may need to be signed by a witness or notarized. Links to state-specific forms can be found on the websites of various organizations such as AARP, the American Bar Association, and the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization.

Living wills can be uniquely tailored to indicate what kind of medical care a person prefers in any number of scenarios (e.g., if you are terminally ill, seriously injured, in a coma, in the latter stages of dementia, or near the end of life). It states the medical treatments you would want or not want to keep you alive (e.g., CPR to restart the heart if it should stop beating, mechanical ventilation if you can’t breathe on your own, tube feeding to supply your body with nutrients and fluids intravenously or via a tube in the stomach, and dialysis to remove the waste from your blood and to manage fluid levels if your kidneys malfunction).

It addresses other medical preferences regarding pain management and if you elect organ, tissue, or body donation. You can state your wishes for antibiotics and antiviral medications to treat infections and if you want to be treated aggressively or if you prefer to let the infections run their course.

There is also an opportunity for you to indicate your preference of comfort care (palliative care) to include such things as dying at home, being fed ice chips to soothe the dryness of the mouth, and avoiding invasive tests or treatments.

A copy of an updated healthcare directive should be on file with the senior’s doctors, hospitals, and health care facilities. It is especially advisable to inform new hospitals and health care facilities of your advance directives. Another suggestion is to carry a wallet-sized card that indicates you have advance directives, identifies your POA for health care, and states where a copy of your directives can be found. A good idea is to carry a copy with you when you are traveling.

You should review your directives and create new ones if there is a new diagnosis, change of marital status, or if you have different wishes at this time in your life.

A Will or Trust

A will or trust states what you want to do with your assets (e.g. money and property) after you die.

You can also leave instructions on how you want your body disposed of (e.g., funeral, cremation, donation) and what type of ceremony you may/may not want (e.g., family only, ceremony at the graveside, memorial service at a specific church, etc.). You may want to include information related to the burial plot, headstone, and casket/urn.

Some people arrange for travel expenses for loved ones or a reception after the gathering. They might have written a copy of their own obituary or tombstone engraving, or even put together some biographical information to be used for a death announcement.

Other Important Papers to Gather

  • Copies of insurance cards (life, health, long-term care, home, car) with policy numbers and agents' names, phone numbers, and current addresses
  • Copies of social security and Medicare/Medicaid cards, car titles and registration, property deeds, and the most recent income tax return
  • Information related to pet care (e.g., medicines, vaccinations, food preferences, and veterinarian)
  • Biographical information (the senior’s full legal name; date and place of birth; names, addresses, and phone numbers of spouse/children/grandchildren; location of birth and death certificates and additional certificates − marriage, divorce, citizenship, and adoption)
  • Pertinent employers and dates of employment; education and military records; names and phone numbers of religious contacts; membership in groups and awards received; current contacts of relevant organizations; names and addresses of close friends, relatives, doctors, lawyers, and financial advisors; an updated medication and vaccination list including pharmacies or mail order addresses and phone numbers
  • Phone and computer usernames and passwords; other passwords for various accounts that might need to be accessed

What to Do with the Documents?

  • Put your important papers and copies of legal documents in one place. Set up a file, designate a desk or dresser drawer, or record the information and location of papers in a notebook. If the documents are in a bank safe deposit box, xerox a second copy to be kept at home. Update the information on a yearly basis or when you have made significant changes to any area.
  • Inform someone where you have your important documents. This most likely is a close relative, trusted friend, or lawyer who has worked with you.

Discussing your affairs and getting these important documents in the right place will help you to be better prepared and more confident in dealing with your future. This will allow you to have the medical care you want and the assurance that your finances are taken care of. And with added peace of mind, you will be more able to enjoy your life and seek out fun, fulfilling things to do.

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