Legal Documents Every Senior Should Have

Will your wishes be met if you unexpectedly died?  Let’s face it, getting old isn’t easy and having conversations about the aging process can be difficult.  Here are legal documents every senior and their families should know about.

Durable Power of Attorney

A durable power of attorney allows a family caregiver to act in the event their loved one becomes incompetent. The document allows the caregiver to manage medical, financial, and other decisions. It should not be confused with the power of attorney, which only lets the caregiver act in extremely limited circumstances.

Conservatorship

If the senior is already incompetent, the family caregiver may have to go to court to be appointed as the loved one’s conservator. Conservatorship allows the caregiver to act in the senior’s best interest. However, the family caregiver needs to be aware of the documents he or she must keep since each decision must ultimately be approved by the court.

Living Will (Advanced Directive)

A Living Will, also called Advance Directives, are legal documents that allow you to convey your decisions about end-of-life care ahead of time. There are four types of advance directives recognized in the State of Texas. They provide a way for you to communicate your wishes to family, friends and health care professionals, and to avoid confusion later on.

-Declaration for Mental Health Treatment. This document allows you to make decisions in advance about mental health treatment and specifically three types of mental health treatment: psychoactive medication, convulsive therapy and emergency mental health treatment. The instructions that you include in this declaration will be followed only if a court believes that you are incapacitated to make treatment decisions. Otherwise, you will be considered able to give or withhold consent for the treatments.
-Directive to Physicians and Family or Surrogates Form. This form is designed to help you communicate your wishes about medical treatment at some time in the future when you are unable to make your wishes known because of illness or injury.
-Medical Power of Attorney Form. Except to the extent you state otherwise, this document gives the person you name as your agent the authority to make any and all health care decisions for you in accordance with your wishes, including your religious and moral beliefs, when you are no longer capable of making them yourself.
-Out-of-Hospital Do Not Resuscitate. This form instructs emergency medical personnel and other health care professionals to forgo resuscitation attempts and to permit the patient to have a natural death with peace and dignity. This order does NOT affect the provision of other emergency care including comfort care.

Will

A written will allows seniors to decide how their assets will be divided once they’re gone. This document also allows you to appoint a person as an executor to overlook the dissolution of assets in accordance with the will. Many of these forms referenced above are available free online and there are Do It Yourself kits and online services that can assist in preparing a will. However, it is best to consult an attorney if budget permits.