The person you name your Power of Attorney; they can’t just go to your bank and say, ‘Hey, Joe named me his Power of Attorney. I need access to his bank account now’— it doesn’t work that way.

—Cameron Huddleston

Taking care of legal matters before a crisis helps ensure that you, not lawyers or courts, remain in control – it may even save countless disagreements further down the line.

Make sure these essential legal documents don’t cause wrinkles in your plans by tuning into This Is Getting Old: Moving Towards An Age-Friendly World and my guest this week, Cameron Huddleston.

Key points covered in this episode:

✔️Estate Planning, Advance Care, and End-of-Life Planning—It’s Not Just Something For The Rich

When people hear the term estate planning or end-of-life planning, legal documents, people often think, well, this is something that rich people do. I don’t need to worry about an estate plan because I don’t have an estate. An estate is really just a fancy word of saying your property, your belongings, and your assets.

If you die without a will, state law will determine who gets your assets. That means your things might go to someone you don’t want to receive those things, or it also might mean that your property needs to be divided up – and it may not be divided in the way you wanted it to be.

✔️Understanding Power of Attorney

You want to get the Power of Attorney (POA) document right because this gives someone permission to manage your finances. You want to make sure you’re giving them the right permissions. You want to have an attorney sit down and discuss what powers you want to give that person and make sure it complies with your state law.

There are different types of power of attorney—you can have general or limited durable or springing power of attorney.

General or Limited Durable POA

General or Limited Durable POA might be, for example, you’re going out of the country, and you need someone to sign some real estate papers for you so you can designate someone as your limited power of attorney who can only sign documents related to real estate for you,

Springing POA

Springing means that power of attorney will spring into effect when certain conditions are met. Typically people will say this will spring into effect if I am deemed mentally incompetent through a diagnosis of dementia or stroke.

But most estate planning attorneys and other law attorneys will discourage people from getting that springing power of attorney because it makes it much more difficult for that person you named as your agent to step in and help you.

✔️When and How to Access the Documents

Copy for Medical Record

Medical documents, including your Health Care Power of Attorney, your Living Will, and Advance Directives (including a Do Not Resuscitate document, if you have one) should be shared with all of your medical providers. You want your providers to have copies of those documents in your . medical chartThey’re going to put it in your patient portal online so that if you are in the hospital and you don’t want to be resuscitated, there is that documentation there that they can refer to and say, this patient doesn’t want to be resuscitated, this patient doesn’t want to be on life support, this patient has named their child as their health care proxy.

Original Copy for Executor (may need to be notarized)

Giving the executor of your estate an original copy of your will is also a good idea. Financial institutions will accept copies, but typically they want it to be a notarized copy. Or you could take the original to the bank. They will make a copy of it and keep it in the files. But if you’re even if you trust your power of attorney 100%, you’re still feeling a little anxious about handing over that power. Hang onto the document yourself and put it someplace safe in a home safe.

Remove all documents from the home if an outside caregiver comes into the home

A word of caution here to family caregivers—if you’re caring for an aging parent and you’re putting outside caregivers in that home with that person, you need to be aware that you need to remove all financial paperwork so that fraud or elder financial abuse doesn’t happen.

✔️ Authorizations

When it comes to government agencies, a POA is not enough. Several of them have their own paperwork that has to be filled out.

Medicare Representative Designee/ POA

If you are caring for an aging parent and have to help manage their Medicare benefit, to get on the phone and talk to someone within the Medicare agency, you’re going to have to be designated as your parent’s Medicare representative. Go online and get the form, and if you have already been named power of attorney, then you can fill out that form and sign it as your parent’s power of attorney.

Social Security Administration

If you have to manage a parent’s Social Security benefits, you must be designated as your parent’s Social Security representative payee. This would be best to go to your local Social Security Administration office and sit down with someone there and go through the process of filling out the paperwork, showing that power of attorney document.

Other responsibilities come with that, so you have to file an annual report with the Social Security Administration detailing how you manage your parent’s benefits and how you spent those benefits for your parent.

Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to sign tax returns

IRS has a form you must fill out to be designated as your parent’s agent. You need to read the instructions carefully, and you will also submit that power of attorney document when you send in the tax return and the additional IRS form.

Name a Trusted Contact with financial institutions

It’s also good to name a trusted contact with your financial institutions. Some will ask for it, and some won’t. Still, you can go ahead and say, “Hey, can I name a trusted contact? This is someone your financial institution can reach out to if you can’t reach me or if it suspects that financial exploitation is going on.” It’s just another way to protect yourself financially.

If you have questions, comments, or need help, please feel free to drop a one-minute audio or video clip and email it to me at melissabphd@gmail.com, and I will get back to you by recording an answer to your question.

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About Melissa:

Melissa Batchelor, PhD, RN, FNP, FGSA, FAAN. I am a nurse, nurse practitioner, nurse educator and nurse researcher with over 25 years of experience in the aging and long-term care healthcare space. You can visit my website at MelissaBPhD.com to learn more about me, how you can work with me directly,
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