Planning for the Senior Years

Recently, Vito Genna, Executive Director of Sierra View Homes, and I were talking about our parents. Both of us had the experience of parents who had their documents in order and were easily accessible when each of us needed to deal with our respective parent’s business and health issues. Keeping important papers in a designated location is important especially if a family member needs to take responsibility for your financial or health well-being while you are alive and as in my case, after death.

As we grow older it is important to do some estate planning. Many seniors may think a Last Will and Testament is all they need to take care of estate plans, but that is far from the truth. Here are some additional issues that should be thought about, discussed with family, and decided upon before these decisions must be made.

One area where you can plan ahead is funeral arrangements. I know some people feel very uneasy about preplanning their own funeral, but by doing so you take the burden off your family and you are able to have control over your own arrangements. Now, there are several funeral homes in Reedley. They have insurance plans that can be set up to preplan arrangements. My mother did such an arrangement. When I had to use it, I was amazed at how many decisions were made in advance. My sister and I had very little decision making to do at the time of her death; I simply followed her plan.

Each person in your family should have a Durable Power of Attorney for health and another one for finances. Durable Power of Attorneys are legal documents that all health professionals, hospitals and financial establishments recognize. They are used only when you are no longer able or no longer want to make decisions on your own behalf. Each of these documents contains the person’s name that has agreed to act, as your agent. The Durable Power for Health care allows you to establish end-of- life decisions. What is nice about the Durable Power documents is that they allow you to spell out your wishes and the agent agrees to follow your wishes. This way you can have peace of mind that the wishes about your life will be carried out.

Collect the following documents into a general location to keep them accessible if your Durable Power Agent needs to step in an take care of business. Place your existing will, existing trust documents, existing community property agreements, copies of deeds, or title insurance that show legal descriptions of real property in a safe place that your agent knows. Documents such as life insurance, long-term care insurance and your Durable Power of Attorney should also be included. Descriptions and values of gifts made in the last three years and descriptions and values of property placed into a trust in the last five years are good to include too. If possible, copies of some of these documents should be given to the agent. Many residents at Sierra View Homes Retirement Community make sure copies are at their children’s homes.

It is a good idea to make an inventory of your assets and liabilities. For example, make a list of what you own, where your bank accounts are, your financial portfolio, and precious stone jewelry are some examples of asset information to gather. Also, make a list of liabilities such as outstanding loans, mortgages, and credit card debts.

Another area to plan is estate planning with your family and loved ones. You need to decide who should be the executor of your will. This person should be talked to before you give them the job. The executor is the person to see to all the details of your business both in paying the bills and then distributing what is left to the beneficiaries after you die.

Prepare a basic identity file. In this file keep your full name, any names you previously used, your address, birth date, and Social Security number. Include in this file the same information for your spouse and your children. The names and address of all beneficiaries named in your will are important to keep up to date. Place in the file information about your military service and/or veteran disability status if applicable.

There is the question of where to put this information so it is safe and accessible when your Durable Power of Attorney agent needs to step in. I suggest you get a safety deposit box at a bank, or place the information in a safe that cannot be easily stolen.

We are all in this world only for a time. Walking through the senior years can be less stressful with a little preparation. I was fortunate my mother kept her important information in a safety deposit box at the bank and in a specific drawer in her house. I could easily step in and work out the details of her estate. I was able to help her live out her days as she wanted, and be her voice both in life and after.