Monday, June 26, 2017

The Four Most Important Legal Documents You Will Need to Manage Your Aging Parent's Affairs

July is Sandwich Generation Awareness Month

Are you part of the Sandwich Generation?   The Sandwich Generation refers to people, usually between their mid-40’s to late- 50’s, who are caring for aging parents while also caring for young children or young adult children.  Often, these Sandwiched caregivers must step into the role of caring for an aging parent without being prepared for the issues they will face.  As people age, the ability to make financial decisions may be one of the first skills to go and the aging parent may forget to pay bills, or may start spending money for things they would never have spent money for in the past, such as knickknacks ordered online, or strange charities.  Sometimes, the aging person cannot understand the decisions they need to make for their healthcare needs and needs someone to step in to make those decisions.

In order to help your parent get their affairs in order, you should first make sure that you or someone trustworthy has the legal ability to manage your parent’s affairs.  This article is a guide to the four fundamental legal documents you and your parent may need in order to get financial affairs in order.  Remember that once someone can no longer understand the fundamentals of these legal documents, it is too late for them to sign them, so the earlier you check to make sure your parent has these documents the better.


A Will is a document that serves as a roadmap for someone to follow to take care of your “stuff” after your death.  In a Will, you can nominate a person known as a Personal Representative or Executor, who will petition the probate court to be granted the authority to take care of your estate after your death.  You can give instructions to the Personal Representative to distribute your “stuff” the way that you want. 

In Georgia, there are specific requirements for the execution of a Will in order for it to be valid, so make sure to have an attorney review it.

Durable Financial Power of Attorney

A Financial Power of Attorney is a document where you nominate someone to make financial decisions for you.  When you appoint someone to make those financial decisions, you are called the Principal.  The person you nominate is called an Agent.  A Financial Power of Attorney can be used for a one-time transaction, such as selling or buying a house, or it can be written to allow broad powers that can be used for many types of financial transactions for many years.  The term “Durable” in this case means the Financial Power of Attorney remains in effect even if you, the Principal, become mentally incapacitated.  If you are helping someone else with their finances, you will need this document before you can even talk to insurance companies, real estate agents, attorneys and financial institutions. 

Advance Directive for Healthcare

An Advance Directive for Healthcare is a document where you nominate an Agent to make healthcare decisions for you if you are not able to make or communicate healthcare decisions for yourself.  The Agent is able to talk with your physicians and other healthcare providers.  In addition, the Agent can make end of life decisions on your behalf and can make decisions about the disposition of your body after your death.  The Advance Directive allows you to choose how and when you would like the Agent to act, and provides direction to the Agent regarding your end-of-life choices

HIPAA Authorization

The HIPAA Authorization is a healthcare document that allows you to nominate a person or persons to have access to your medical records should that information be needed at a time when you are unable to request them yourself.

These four documents are generally necessary for most people.  However, everyone’s situation is different, so there may be additional documents such as trusts that your parent needs to make sure their legal and financial house is in order.  I recommend that you schedule an appointment with an attorney that concentrates in Elder Law to make sure you have everything you need in order to help your parent.


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