If the task of helping your parents coordinate medical services, home repairs, caregivers, and legal and financial consultants has fallen to you, below is some important information you might need.
As your parents’ physical and/or mental health declines, they may require skilled nursing home care. If this is necessary, you will need to be aware of your parents’ financial information to determine if they will have enough to pay for their care versus if you will need State assistance. Similarly, you should have a comprehensive knowledge of their medical needs and treatments to ensure adequate health services will be provided to your parents. If your parents are agreeable, begin to accumulate this information now before you are faced with an emergency nursing home admission or a death. Gathering this information while your parents are alive and able to advise you on the location of assets, names of advisers, etc. will save you countless headaches - trust us!
What’s the easiest way to gather this information? Your parents can most easily assemble the necessary documents and contact information, if they are in good health and willing. If they struggle with their health or organizational skills, they could legally appoint you to serve as an immediate Power of Attorney for their financial and health care matters, to help them with this process. These Powers of Attorney would allow you to communicate with any business or health care agent working with your parents even if your parents still have capacity. You could also make decisions on their behalf, should that become necessary. As a legally appointed Power of Attorney, you can pay their bills, sign contracts, make investments, etc… Be aware, however, with this power comes greater legal responsibility. Your decisions must be beneficial to your parents and be in keeping with their standard practices. You will be held to a higher standard by the Court if it is determined that you acted against your parents’ best interests.
If your parents are worried about giving you too much power over their finances, they can limit the amount of authority you are given under a Power of Attorney, either by restricting the time that you will have this authority, or by restricting your decision making powers to a specific subject (such as selling real estate). They can discuss their concerns with their estate planning attorney and come up with a plan that grants you the authority with which they are comfortable.
What kind of documents and information should you gather? Assuming your parents have done an adequate job with their estate planning and long-term care planning, here are the most common items you will need to assemble as you begin the caregiver role:
• Copies of any currently existing estate planning documents, including any powers of attorney for financial or health care, living wills, Last Will and Testaments and any trust documents. If your parents are admitted to a medical institution, you will need to provide a copy of their Health Care Powers of Attorney, Living Wills and HIPAA authorization forms to the institution.
If you are currently acting as your parents’ Financial/Business Power of Attorney, you will need copies of their:
• Current bank account statements, information on any automatic withdrawal payments, and the location of any bank deposit box/key;
• Certificates of Deposit and savings bonds (as well as the location of the original instruments);
• Current investment and mutual fund account statements;
• Stock or bond certificates and LLC units from investments or active business ownership;
• IRA account statements;
• Life insurance policies and beneficiary information;
• Pension plan statements, and beneficiary/administrator information;
• Annuity statements and beneficiary information;
• Copies of deeds or transfer documents for real estate and all mineral interests, including any inherited real property or minerals. (copies may be obtained from the Register of Deeds of the county in which the property or minerals is located);
• Mineral interest payment information;
• Wind energy contracts and current payment/contact information;
• Accounts receivable/payable, promissory notes, contracts, etc.;
• Electrical, communications, and agricultural cooperative capital credit providers;
• Prepaid funeral plan policies/contracts, and cemetery plot ownership information;
• Credit card statements;
• List of your parents’ professional advisers and business contacts, including contact information (financial adviser, accountant, attorney, doctors, clergy, pharmacist, insurance agent, etc.)
For more information on your duties as a Power of Attorney, please contact Davis & McCann, P.A., Dodge City, KS. We are members of Wealth Counsel, a national consortium of Estate Planning Attorneys and focus our practice on providing clients with the best legal advice on estate planning, Medicaid and Long-term Care Planning, Business Formation, Family Business/Small Business Succession Planning, Probate, Trust Administration, Real Estate Transactions, and related matters.
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