Perhaps you are part of The Sandwich* Generation in which you are still caring for grown children at home while also caring for your elderly parents. If so, you are extremely busy with the day to day aspects of life such as paying the monthly bills and making necessary repairs to home, vehicles and more. The tasks seem endless. Or maybe you are living the empty nest retirement years and enjoying more leisure time to pursue hobbies and, let’s face it; the paperwork of life is not very glamorous. But there are four, and possibly more pieces of paperwork that are of ultimate importance in ensuring that things will go well for you and your family at the end of life. Read through the list and then make a commitment to help your elderly parents get these done and while you’re at it, do them for yourself as well.
1) Be sure you have an advanced directive on file with your health care provider, your doctor and a copy given to family members. An advanced directive is simply an outline of the kind of medical care you would want if you were too ill or injured to express your wishes at some time in the future. It’s a way to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals and avoid confusion or disputes in a time of crisis. You will need to decide what you would want to happen in the event of various health situations including the need for use of breathing machines, resuscitation if your breathing or heartbeat stops, whether or not you would want tube feeding or if you want to donate tissue or organs in the event of your death. Granted, none of these situations are pleasant to contemplate, but they are so important to have documented so proper decisions can be made if necessary.
2) Even if your estate is rather small, you need to create an inventory of all your assets. Do you own a home and a car? Do you have bank accounts, investments, health insurance plans and the like? Do you own a business or are you in a partnership of some sort? Do you own a second home or property? All of these things need to be written down and copies kept in secure places for family members in the event of death. Such an inventory will become invaluable to family when the estate is passed on. You may avoid lengthy court proceedings which can eat up much of the value of your estate before it can be passed on to your intended heirs.
3) You have probably made out your will. But maybe you haven’t. A surprising number of people put off this task because it is unpleasant to think about one’s demise. If you haven’t done this essential task or if you wish to change or update your will—don’t wait. Again, even small estates can become entangled in legal wrangling that will allow much of your assets to be wasted before being passed on to the intended recipients. It’s a little bit like going to the dentist: you don’t enjoy it, but you’re pleased when it’s all done.
4) Finally, you need to select a person to hold a durable power of attorney for you in the event that you become unable to oversee your own affairs. This person may become responsible for paying your bills, doing banking tasks, and even overseeing your estate matters. You may also need a power of attorney to have the designated person sign medical release forms and the like.
Because the laws pertaining to end of life documentation are different from State to State and Country to Country, you will need to do some research as you go about getting your paperwork in order. But do call an attorney, a trusted estate planner or contact health care professionals to begin the job. Don’t stop until you have your will, advance directives, an asset inventory and a power of attorney written out, copied and placed in secure places to ensure that all goes well with your family’s end of life issues.
P.S Ask Granny is taking a vacation right now in Sandwich* Bay, Kent, UK, a beautiful seaside resort over looking the French coast.
The sandwiches are delicious too!