Being Prepared: Documents You and Your Family Will Need

Being Prepared: Documents You and Your Family Will Need

If you’re creating a Living Trust, you’ll need to access financial records and other important documents.

End-of-life planning now will save future anxiety and stress

This is important for your own family, but it may be even more critical for those who are caring for family members. A stunning 10,000 baby boomers are turning 70 every day. That means a lot of family members are stepping up to take care of them. If you’re dealing with a parent’s health crisis, you won’t have time to be rummaging around your attic or through piles of dusty documents looking for a Do Not Resuscitate Order.

We all muddle along until there’s the inevitable health crisis

When it comes to caring for ourselves or our parents, it seems that we muddle along until we can’t anymore. It’s nearly always a health crisis that necessitates an intervention. In my own case, when my friend, Jim, was diagnosed with a terminal disease, it was his health crisis that required our teaming to provide care solutions.

Fortunately, his daughter Jan doesn’t work, so by default, she became our team leader. Jim spent 40 years as a money manager, where he learned to keep good records. Jan was the team leader, and we all chipped in, as we could. We scheduled home visits, doctor appointments and recreation. For nearly two years until he died, we thought we had it all covered. But we missed one very important detail that should have been a no-brainer; we all knew better. Jim had a Will, but no Living Trust. Jan and her brother are now having to Probate their father’s estate.

Parents, money and privacy

What is it anyway? We don’t like to talk about finances with our parents—either ours or theirs. These secrets can lead to stress for whole families in cases when an unprepared elderly parent develops memory loss, falls ill or suddenly passes away.

Sometimes it’s just time to come clean. Seniors need to make sure their loved ones have access to crucial information in case of a serious emergency. If family members are trying to help their parents, they absolutely need to be aware of bank accounts, assets and pensions, or at least where to find that information. This information is critical for planning for assisted care or a nursing home.

Financial documents can be crucial when applying for VA benefits or Medicaid

If a family member cannot locate important documents like tax returns or bank account information, it can delay or even cause the senior to be denied benefits from Medicaid or the VA. Seniors applying for Medicaid or veterans benefits are required to demonstrate their financial need and will have to provide comprehensive documentation of past and present finances. The approval process for such benefits can be stalled for months because of a single missing piece of paperwork. A stalled application can translate to delayed assistance—and this can be risky for those with serious health conditions.

Bank records will help locate savings and other financial accounts

You will need bank records to locate savings he/she might have had. In the final year for my own parents, when my brother was managing their affairs, we met with both their CPA and banker, making sure there were no overlooked accounts. Toward the end, my folks were really not much help. My stepfather was confusing the number of zeros associated with his accounts. He had us all thinking we were going to inherit millions, and my mother had completely checked out. After this experience, I can totally understand how hundreds of millions of dollars sit idle across the country in bank accounts of people who have been dead for years.

We caution all of our Living Trust clients: Keep your Trust in a secure place

Alert a trusted family member or friend of its location. You will receive both a hardbound portfolio and a soft copy. You may want to share the soft copy (pdf file) with someone you trust. A Trust doesn’t get filed with the county like a Divorce or a Deed. A Trust that can’t be found doesn’t exist.

Vital financial documents include:

  • List of all bank accounts
  • Pension documents 401(k) information, and annuity contracts
  • Tax returns
  • Savings bonds, stock certificates or brokerage accounts
  • Partnership and corporate operating agreements
  • Deeds to all property
  • Vehicle title
  • Documentation of loans and debts, including all credit accounts
  • Power-of-Attorney

California Document Preparers assists our clients in the preparation of their Living Trusts, which include a Power of Attorneyand Advance Healthcare Directive. Most of our clients are surprised at how easy it is. Schedule an appointment today by contacting us at one of our three Bay Area officesOur dedicated team is helpful, compassionate and affordable.