TAKE CARE OF LEGAL ISSUES - Tips from Dr. Marion

By Dr. Marion Somers, Ph. D., Dr. Marion Tips


  1. Execute a legal plan for your elder's estate. Face things and solve issues now so your elder can better enjoy his/her remaining time, and so you can be more at ease in your caregiving role. Once everything is put in order, review all legal issues every five years, or more frequently if your elder has a particularly complicated situation.
  2. Have all possessions professionally appraised, catalogued, and videotaped for inventory and insurance purposes. This gives everyone involved great peace of mind. It can be a long process, but in the end, you and your elder will be very comforted.
  3. Collect all legal papers in a lock box, safety deposit box, or fireproof safe. After going over financial and insurance details, it is wise to collect and keep your elder's legal papers in a safe spot. But don't place legal documents that need to be accessible 24 hours a day in a bank safe deposit box.
  4. Assign durable power of attorney. This authorizes someone to act on behalf of your elder if he/she becomes unable to make decisions. It differs from power of attorney in that it can be enforced even if your elder becomes mentally disabled, so abuse is more frequent due to the greater power transfer. Use caution!
  5. Execute a do not resuscitate (DNR) orders if so desired. Discuss this with your elder at length so you know his or her wishes will be carried out should serious health complications arise.
  6. Don't allow your elder to pass away intestate (without a will). When your elder doesn't have a will, the state takes over all of the assets. It can become very complicated, and you're sure to lose a hefty percentage of the true value of the estate.
  7. Name someone as your elder's beneficiary or the estate will be left to the state. Your elder should have the opportunity and choice to leave his or her worldly possessions to exactly who they want to.
  8. Make sure that the will and all legal documents are up to date. Change is a constant in life, and wills are no different. Be ready to execute more than one document over time. Anytime someone signs a will, there must be a witness. The original may be kept with the lawyer, and a copy should be included with your elder's other legal documents.
  9. Determine taxes, inheritance options, asset protection, and tax planning in compliance with various federal and state financial rules and regulations. The more you can do ahead of time, the smoother the transition will be once your elder passes away. It can become very complicated, so don't take all of this on by yourself.
  10. Legal issues should be handled by a trusted lawyer, accountant, or financial advisor, especially if there are complicated issues outside your expertise. Many of the rules and laws fluctuate on a yearly basis, and vary from state to state.

©2006 Elder Health Resources of America, Inc.


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