Older adults often face critical and complex issues such as income security, housing, utilities, protective services, abuse, neglect, and age discrimination, which is why advanced planning is so important.

Early legal planning for seniors can make a big difference. Some of the benefits of early planning include giving all interested parties the chance to express their wishes about future care, eliminating the guesswork for families, and allowing the designation of decision-makers.

Planning should include: 

  • Preparing for long term care and health care needs.
  • Making arrangements for finances and property.
  • Naming another person to make decisions on behalf of the person with dementia.

Estate Planning and Legal Documents 

Estate planning is critical to senior’s planning process. Estate planning includes: the drafting of wills, trusts, powers of attorney, and other legal documents that facilitate the transfer of property upon death. What legal documents should you consider drafting? 

7 Legal Documents to Consider When Doing Your Estate Planning

1. Living Will

If you or your loved one becomes incapacitated, a living will is an advance directive that directs your treatment in certain medical situations. Check your local laws for guidance about how to draft this document. 

2. Standard Will

A standard will identifies the Executor, the person who will manage the estate, and the Beneficiaries, the people who will receive the assets in the estate upon death.

Photo of man looking at last will and testament.

3. Living Trust

A living trust is another way to provide instructions for how to handle an estate upon death. A living trust may allow an estate to stay out of the court system and provide tax advantages. 

4. Power of Attorney

The power of attorney document allows you or your loved one to name another individual, typically a spouse, domestic partner, trusted family member or friend, to make financial and other decisions if you become incapacitated. Do you need a lawyer to get a power of attorney? See below for more information.

5. Power of Attorney for health care

This type of advance directive names a health care agent to make health care decisions if you or your loved one no longer have the ability.

6. Guardian/Conservatorship 

If a person is unable to care for themselves or property, a court may step in and appoint a guardian or conservator. Guardianship is generally considered when a family is absent or unable to agree upon the type of care needed.

7. Right to Die

In Colorado, after meeting several strict qualifications, the Colorado End-of-Life Options Act allows a terminally ill adult to end his or her life in a peaceful manner with medical aid. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment provides information https://cdphe.colorado.gov/center-for-health-and-environmental-data/registries-and-vital-statistics/medical-aid-in-dying about the right to die in the state.

Are Elder Law Attorneys Worth It? Experts Say, “Yes!”

While you could attempt to prepare all these documents independently, experts recommend hiring an elder law attorney. The legal landscape of aging can be complex and varies according to state. If you’re a caregiver or older adult, an elder law attorney can help you navigate decisions related to health, housing, financial well-being and long term care; create durable decision making documents; plan for possible long term care needs; and ensure the client’s right to quality of care. 

If you are in need of legal assistance for an older adult, the Older Americans Act supports legal service programs. To find services in your community, visit the eldercare government website.

Consider a Geriatric Care Manager

You may also want to consider working with a Geriatric Care Manager. These specialists are usually a licensed nurse or social worker who specializes in geriatrics. They are a sort of “professional relative” who can help you and or your loved one to identify needs and find ways to meet those needs.

10 Key Financial and Legal Tips For Estate Planning

These 10 key tips from the Alzheimer’s Association can help simplify the most important things you can do to prepare your financial and legal affairs. 

  1. Talk about finances and future care wishes as soon as possible.
  2. Organize and review important documents.
  3. Get help from well-qualified financial and legal advisors.
  4. Estimate possible costs for the remainder of you or your loved one’s life.
  5. Look at all insurance options.
  6. Consider work-related salary and benefits, and personal property as potential income.
  7. Find out any eligibility for government programs.
  8. Learn about income tax breaks for which you may qualify.
  9. Explore financial assistance you can personally provide.
  10. Take advantage of low-cost and free community services.