Andrew Parker

25 Legal Documents Elderly Americans Need but Most Don’t Have

For older Americans, understanding and having the right documents in place is more important than you might think. Even so, many people don’t have these, whether it’s because they forgot or just don’t know about them. Today, we’re looking at 25 of these documents you need to have to get your affairs in order.

Who’s Getting the Treasure?

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Everyone’s got stuff, and deciding who gets what when you’re not around is pretty important. A will tells your loved ones exactly how you want your things given out, making sorting out your legacy much easier. Without it, you’re leaving it up to people who have no idea that your granddaughter really wants your Elvis record collection.

Getting a Backup

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Getting a Power of Attorney means you’re giving the green light to someone you trust, and they can handle your money if you’re ever not up to it. They’ll make sure someone’s there to pay the bills and keep things running smoothly in the off-chance you hit a bump in the road. Why wouldn’t you want this?

Your Final Act of Kindness

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This next one is completely your decision, but deciding to be an organ donor means you’re leaving behind a legacy of hope and life. Yes, it’s a moment of loss for your loved ones, but you’ve got the chance to turn this into a lifeline for someone else. And with over 100,000 waiting for organ transplants, you could be part of this change.

Giving You a Voice

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A healthcare proxy might just seem like another piece of paper, but it’s so much more than that. It’ll give you a voice during those times when, for whatever reason, you can’t use your own. Choose someone you trust to make these calls, and you’ll be able to keep your healthcare playing out the way you want.

Your Medical Playbook

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A living will sounds similar to a last will, but it actually deals with your healthcare. Like a healthcare proxy, it’ll help your loved ones organize your healthcare in the case that you’re not able to do it. It’ll handle the big decisions and also deal with the small ones that can make a huge difference in how people look after you.

Skipping the Drama

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A revocable living trust is a smooth move for keeping your affairs out of probate court and in the family circle. This way, you get to keep your private matters private, and your loved ones know what to do. Plus, probate court takes a long time, and it can cost anywhere between 3 to 7% of your total estate.

Making a Direct Pass

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Want to make sure your retirement stash and life insurance go directly to the people you’ve picked? Then you should get yourself a beneficiary form so you can pass on what you have. Nobody wants to have their hard-earned assets all mixed up in legal limbo, and this is the best way to avoid that.

What’s In Your Wallet…And Everywhere Else

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A financial inventory is your financial autobiography that tells your loved ones what you own and owe. You’re giving your family the Cliff Notes to your finances, so they’re clued in on how to handle everything. Even if you haven’t got loads to worry about, this inventory is a plan to avoid any potential chaos.

Your Online Life

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We’re living in a digital world, and your online presence is a big part of that, so why are you ignoring it? Letting your loved ones know about your digital assets means they won’t be left guessing your passwords or how to close down your accounts. After all, your digital legacy should be just as tidy as your physical one.

The Personal Touch

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All of your possessions aren’t just items, and a letter of intent is the best way to remind people of that. It’ll let you share the stories and emotions behind your favorite items, so they’ll understand the personal side of your decisions. It’s kind of a way of speaking directly to your loved ones when you’ve gone.

Keeping Secrets, Secret

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Yes, a HIPAA release form seems pretty official, but it’s worth the hassle. It’ll make sure that your health and health documents aren’t hidden just for your doctors to see so the people you trust can access your health info. They’ll know about your health needs and, hopefully, be able to make the right decisions.

Keeping the Roof Over Their Heads

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The deed to your home means everyone’s on the same page about your property, so there’s no guessing game about who holds the keys to the kingdom. It’ll smooth out any bumps when your family steps in, as long as you’ve got easy access to it. The cost of one varies across states, but it’s usually between $50 and $200.

The Team Badge

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Do you know where your marriage license is? Well, you should because it’s the only document telling lawyers that you and your partner are together. Having your marriage license will help your better half step up without a hitch. It doesn’t matter if it’s just for emergencies or day-to-day stuff, it’s the proof you need to show you’re doing things together.

Marital Finances

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Speaking of marriage, you’ll also need to get any pre- or post-nuptial agreements sorted so you’re both on the same page. If you don’t, then be prepared for a whole ton of financial chaos and, most likely, conflict. These agreements will keep you, and your partner, protected no matter what the future holds.

A Clean Slate

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Of course, it’s just as important to have those papers proving you’ve split up, too, like your divorce papers. They’ll keep each chapter of your life tidy and stop any drama from spilling over to the next one while also stopping any strings from pulling you back. This way, everyone knows who’s got what and who’s on the hook for anything from here on out.

Honoring Your Service

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If you’ve ever served in the armed forces, then your veteran’s records are far from anything ordinary. They’re proof that you’ve done your service and also let your loved ones know about any benefits you’ve earned. Plus, they’ll keep people honoring your service long after you’ve hung up your uniform.

Insurance Safety Net

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Long-term care insurance is the best way to get peace of mind when you get older because it’ll put plans in place for when life throws you curveballs. It doesn’t matter what kind of extra care you may or may not need, this document keeps things all in order. It depends on your age and other factors, but the average cost is between $900 and $7000 per year.

Your Encore

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If there’s one thing you can definitely have control over before you pass away, it’s your funeral plans. Getting these sorted out makes sure this last performance is exactly how you’d want it without putting your family through the stress of guessing games. Quiet moments or a grand finale? It’s your call to decide how you’re remembered.

Your Promise for Their Tomorrow

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Choosing a guardian for any little ones you may have gives them a safety net for the future. It’s a sign of love, but it also means you’re giving them to someone who can carry on caring for and guiding them. This way, you’re creating a plan so their futures can stay positive, even if it’s without you.

Securing Your Flight Path

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Speaking of kids, creating a trust for the younger members of your family will give them a financial head start in life. It doesn’t matter if it’s for going to college or buying their first house because every little bit helps. You’re creating a foundation that’ll support them from afar and you’re showing you believe in their future.

Passing the Torch

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Have your own business? Then you’ll need to get a business succession plan so that the company you’ve poured your heart into can continue growing, even when it’s time for you to step back. You’ll need to choose the right people to take control so that your business can survive through the generations.

A Legacy in Objects

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You might also want to start documenting your valuables, so everyone understands the importance of each piece. Artwork that means something to you? Write it down. Jewelry that was passed down? Write it down. You’ll want people to remember and celebrate your legacy, and this is the best way to do it.

Organizing Your Financial History

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Nobody likes doing taxes, and you probably don’t want to even think about them when you’re older, but it’s something you’ve got to do. Getting your tax returns organized lets your loved ones know about your financial career, and it’ll help you plan ahead. They’re way more useful than you might think.

Clearing Up Finances

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Keeping an up-to-date list of your debts means that your financial situation is completely transparent for your family so they can avoid any surprises. When you put everything out in the open, they’ll understand how to deal with your finances and make informed decisions. It’s pretty easy to get a list completed, so make sure you get it done.

Protecting Your Valuables

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Last of all, writing down what’s in your safety deposit box lets everyone know what’s precious. It’ll protect every gem or piece of history that matters most to you, and it’ll also mean they’re accounted for. Then, all of your heirs will know just how important each piece of your collection truly is.

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