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3 Estate Planning Documents Your Parents Need Right Now

As your parents age, ensuring their peace of mind (and yours!) becomes a top priority. One of the best things you can do for your own future, and that of your entire future lineage—your children, grandchildren, and beyond—is to take great care of the people you were born to or raised by.

The questions you need to start asking now are: How will you help them if they become ill or injured? Who will take care of their bills and make sure their health needs are met? How do they want to be cared for if and when they cannot care for themselves?

The starting place is open conversation and a power trio of estate planning tools: the General Power of Attorney, the Power of Attorney for Healthcare (including a Living Will), and the HIPAA Waiver. 

Now, let's break down why these tools are the unsung heroes of comprehensive estate planning for your parents, and how to bring them up so you can support your parents to get them created or updated, no matter how much or how little money they have in the bank.


1. General Power of Attorney (POA)

A General Power of Attorney (or POA) grants a person you name (often a family member or trusted friend) the authority to manage your financial affairs if you become unable to do so yourself. From handling bills to making investment decisions, the General POA ensures that your financial matters are handled, whether you’re experiencing a temporary illness or a long-term inability to manage your money, such as in the case of memory problems.

If your parents have assets that you must be able to access easily in the event of their incapacity, you may decide that a POA for accessing their accounts is not sufficient, as it can be difficult to get access to bank accounts even with a POA in place and can require court action. In that case, the best course of action is to ensure that their assets are titled in the name of a trust, with you or someone you trust as the named successor Trustee, who can step in and handle financial matters for your parents, without any court involvement, when needed.


2. Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Will

It’s possible your parents already lean on you for guidance with their healthcare decisions, and it’s equally possible they don’t share details of their healthcare with you at all. No matter which side of the spectrum your parents stand on, the question of what will happen to their healthcare needs if they become seriously ill can feel overwhelming (and it’s even more overwhelming during moments of medical crisis). 

A Power of Attorney for Healthcare and Living Will allow your parents to explain their medical wishes to guide medical providers and family members on what treatments and life-saving measures they’d like to have, even in the toughest of times.

The Power of Attorney for Healthcare designates someone to make these medical decisions on behalf of your parents if they're unable to do so. This trusted individual becomes the advocate, ensuring that healthcare choices align with your parents' values and preferences.

The Living Will outlines your parents' wishes regarding life-sustaining treatments in the event they're unable to communicate. From CPR to artificial hydration, this document provides clarity amidst uncertainty, giving both your parents and their loved-ones’ peace of mind that the decisions being made around their care are what they themselves would want.


3. HIPAA Waiver

In the digital age, privacy is paramount. But what happens when privacy becomes a barrier to essential healthcare-related communication? Enter the HIPAA Waiver, the ultimate tool for opening communication roadblocks in times of need.

HIPAA (the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) protects the privacy of individuals' medical records. While this is crucial for safeguarding sensitive medical information, it can sometimes hinder the flow of communication between healthcare providers and family members, especially for the elderly and those incapacitated by an illness or injury. 

By signing a HIPAA Waiver, your parents authorize specific individuals to access their medical information and speak directly to their medical providers, ensuring seamless communication and informed decision-making. Informed decisions are important during a medical emergency but also if your parents need help hearing their doctor or understanding their medical advice.


How to Bring Up Estate Planning With Your Parents

A good way to bring up estate planning with your parents is to get your own planning handled first. You can let your parents know that in the process of handling your own planning, your lawyer raised the question of whether you were an agent under anyone else’s power of attorney or named as a successor Trustee in your parents' Trust, or if you are going to be caring for aging parents at some point.

Why the Urgency?

You might be thinking, "Why the rush? Can't we tackle this later?" But life is unpredictable, and procrastination can cause a bigger headache down the road. This could also leave your parents' wishes unfulfilled and their affairs in disarray.

By planning ahead, you're not just checking items off a to-do list, you're investing in your parents' peace of mind and yours.

You are welcome to schedule a 15-minute call today to learn how our process works.


This article is a service of Rayboun Winegardner, PLLC, a Personal Family Lawyer® Firm. We don’t just draft documents; we ensure you make informed and empowered decisions about life and death, for yourself and the people you love. That's why we offer a Family Wealth Planning Session™, during which you will get more financially organized than you’ve ever been before and make all the best choices for the people you love. You can begin by calling our office today to schedule a Family Wealth Planning Session.


The content is sourced from Personal Family Lawyer® for use by Personal Family Lawyer® firms, a source believed to be providing accurate information. This material was created for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as ERISA, tax, legal, or investment advice. If you are seeking legal advice specific to your needs, such advice services must be obtained on your own separate from this educational material.


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