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A Mother’s Day Reminder to Help Your Parent Have Peace of Mind

Mother’s Day is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on how much we appreciate all the acts of love the mothers in our lives have shared with us. When we are young, our moms make countless sacrifices to care for our day-to-day needs. Even after we are grown and living the lives we created, our moms continue to guide us, support us, and worry about us.  But as our mothers age, we begin to have more opportunities to return that favor.

As you spend quality time with your mother  – or any person you love like a mother – consider offering to help her get her personal files and paperwork in order. Getting organized is an important step in developing a sound plan to deal with whatever the future holds.

The plan should include implementing what we call the “emergency decision documents” – Durable Power of Attorney for day-to-day financial affairs, a Health Care Power of Attorney for medical decisions, and an Advanced Health Care Directive for end of life decisions.  It also makes sense to talk about a plan for managing the expense of long-term nursing care, as thinking through this before it is an issue will give your parent so many more options.  And of course, everyone needs to have a Last Will and Testament or a Revocable Living Trust clarifying what happens to their assets upon their death.

This is a conversation that requires sensitivity, as we should respect our parents’ privacy and sense of independence.  Afterall, she’s still the parent.  It is loving to let your aging parents know that you want to make sure that they have peace of mind if their health and capacity declines, as good planning can eliminate the need for courts to get involved via adult guardianships and probates, and thoughtful communication can help keep family relationships intact.  But it is also loving to gently ask your mother what plans she has for herself, and what role does she foresee you having in it – and then respecting her right to make choices that may be different than your preference.

When your mom is ready for your assistance, here’s a list of items that you could help her organize.  Depending on her situation, it may not be appropriate for her to share access to all of the items below, but it would still be helpful for her to think through how and who she’d want to share this information with if she couldn’t act on her own behalf.

  • Health Care Info
    • List of health care providers
    • Prescription medicine
    • Over-the-counter medicine
    • Preferences for care if daily living assistance is needed
  • Income Information
    • Social Security
    • Pension / Retirement Income
    • Wages or Salary
    • Mineral interest royalties
    • Any other passive income
  • Bills
    • Utilities
    • Credit cards
    • Mortgage or rent
    • Car payments
    • Lease agreements
    • Insurance payments
    • Any misc. loans
  • Insurance Information
    • Health insurance, including Medicare
    • Long-Term Care policies
    • Life insurance
    • Auto insurance
    • Homeowner’s insurance
  • Financial Information
    • Checking accounts
    • Savings accounts
    • CDs
    • Brokerage accounts
    • Retirement accounts
  • Other Assets
    • Deeds for real estate
    • Car titles and registration information
    • Stock and bonds with physical certificates
    • Ownership in a closely-held LLC or corporation
    • Promissory Notes (if people owe them money)
    • Precious metals, coins or other collectables
    • Digital Assets (bitcoin, blogs, webpages, etc.)
  • Estate Planning Documents – also review if these reflect current law and wishes
    • Durable Financial Power of Attorney
    • Health Care Power of Attorney
    • Advanced Health Care Directive
    • HIPAA Authorization
    • Last Will & Testament
    • Revocable Living Trust
    • Medicaid Asset Protection Trust
    • Other Irrevocable Trusts, if any
  • Other Personal Documents
    • Recent tax returns
    • Social security cards
    • Birth certificates
    • Death certificates
    • Marriage licenses
    • Naturalization papers
    • Login information for social media accounts and other digital accounts

The best way to show your mom that you’re grateful for her is to be there for her when she needs you.   Helping her get organized as described above is a fantastic first step in what can be a wonderful and lasting gift to her.  If you or your mother needs assistance from an experienced estate planning attorney with specialized training in assisting the elderly, please reach out to us.   We’d love to help you provide this wonderful and lasting gift to her.

Photo: Attorney Brittany Littleton (in blue) with her mother, grandmother and sister.

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