Helping your parents age gracefully is a complicated task. In many cases, you must support their wishes, but you will also need to watch for signs that they can no longer take care of themselves properly. Dementia, compromised decision-making or other medical conditions could leave your parents unable to make important decisions or manage things like their personal finances.
Even if your parents are in good health now, you should plan for the future while you can. It may be time to discuss the need for a living will with your parents. If there is an existing last will and estate plan, it is probably still be wise to create additional documents and instructions.
This is particularly true if your family has a history of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. A living will includes documents that can protect your parents’ medical and financial wishes and help you do what they would want you to. A living will is another way for someone to protect one’s family.
A living will contains a number of different documents
Typically speaking, a living will contains documents related to someone’s medical incapacitation instead of death. Events like comas or dementia onset could leave people unable to make their own medical and financial decisions. Unconsciousness prevents someone from voicing his or her opinions, while dementia or declining mental health could mean an inability to understand the consequences of a decision.
The living will includes documents that authorize someone that the testator trusts to make those decisions. It also leaves a detailed record of someone’s preference. From organ donation to resuscitation, a living will can provide guidance for all kinds of critical medical decisions. An advance medical directive outlines someone’s medical wishes, while power of attorney documents empower someone else to act on those wishes.
Power of attorney documents protect your parents’ medical wishes and finances
The real world doesn’t stop just because somebody gets injured or ends up sick. Even if your parent experiences some kind of tragedy, he or she will still have obligations. A medical power of attorney authorizes you to make medical decisions in line with your parents’ express wishes. A financial power of attorney can allow you to access specific accounts to pay bills or meet other financial obligations, like the payment of property taxes.
A power of attorney is only valid for as long as the individual assigning power of attorney remains alive. When the person who created the power of attorney passes away, that document no longer has any power, and the last will and estate plan become the guiding documents. More importantly, your parents will have the authority to limit the abilities of the person who holds the power of attorney, which can reduce the risk of someone abusing this position of trust.