PaperWork - A Reminder
Boring But Necessary! #119
A year I wrote an article about the critical paperwork older adults might want to have in place. This post is an updated version and supplements the following article, On Your Own? which is available in three minutes.
Dan took care of our business affairs. He was conscientious, detail-oriented, and kept excellent records. He handled the taxes, managed the money, and fixed computer problems. It was boring stuff, and I was interested in other things.
Then Dan’s memory began to fail - dramatically after emergency surgery. Still, things were OK, thanks to his previous management plan. But his memory got to a place where
I had to take over! As you might imagine, I was unprepared - confused, stressed, and struggling.
In hindsight, I would take more interest in the boring stuff - ask questions, know what was happening, and be more aware. Having Dan care for those things was a relief, but there was a price to pay in the long run.
I had to learn about the following:
Wills and Powers of Attorney
Generally speaking, the will protected Dan’s assets after he died, and a power of attorney protected them during his lifetime. Together they formed an umbrella of financial protection.
A will directs how people’s property is distributed upon death. It provides the person and the family with a plan to deal with the unexpected and states what should happen with their possessions. It removes the drama of fights over assets, eliminates potential court battles, and gives family members a plan.
According to Dave Ramsey, radio show host and personal finance personality,
His company surveyed over 2,000 people and found that 63% had no will. When asked why not, they gave three main reasons: we don’t have time to make one (48%), we don’t need one in this stage of life (20%), or we can’t afford one (17%).
Making a will can be emotional, so it’s easy to see why people skip it entirely. I didn’t think we needed one at that stage of life, but having it in place was valuable.
The Power of Attorney
A power of attorney (POA) authorizes an individual to perform different actions on another person’s behalf.
The Financial Durable Power of Attorney allowed me to make financial transactions and sign legal documents when Dan could no longer. This document was vital as he moved to an assisted living facility and with financial matters.
The Durable Power of Attorney for Health Care allowed me to make medical and other health-related decisions, including
choosing doctors and other care providers
deciding on living arrangements such as assisted living facilities and hospice
making decisions regarding medical care, including surgeries, tests, and medication
obtaining information regarding his medical condition
It was enormously helpful to have those legal documents in place. Dan denied having dementia and would have refused to participate when we needed them.
Medicare is the federal health insurance program for people 65 or older, certain younger people with disabilities, and people with permanent kidney failure requiring dialysis or a transplant.
Typically, other health plans supplement Medicare. I was unclear about what Medicare would and wouldn’t pay for. The following video was informative.
We had health insurance but not long-term care insurance. Fortunately, we had set aside money for emergencies. That money helped pay for Dan’s memory care stay - $15,000 a month.
I thought he had no life insurance but found a company life insurance policy taken out years ago. There was a substantial death benefit involved, which I could have lost. Knowing what is in place and what you have is wise.
I still needed to learn about taxes, but Dan kept a list of required documents and hired a CPA. So, I followed the list, and the CPA helped me complete the process. This video can help you get started. One idea I found especially helpful was to do them over time rather than all at once.
Learning about our financial situation was the biggest hurdle. In retrospect, I wish that I had paid more attention. Fortunately, the financial planner answered my questions as I took charge and remains supportive.
Friends say their partner/spouse told them, “you don’t need to worry about pin numbers, accounts, and log-in information, it’s my job.” BUT situations change overnight. You need to be knowledgeable and prepared – that is the voice of experience speaking.
I had two issues to solve. One was paying bills online; the other was managing online accounts. Dan kept an accurate list of passwords – but some were in his name, some in mine. Some I paid for, some he did. It was a challenging puzzle.
The second was knowing how to fix computer problems as they arise - and they do. Some I figured out for myself, while others have required help.
Had I taken the time to be more involved over the years, I would have been more prepared to take over when necessary and could have saved myself a lot of extra work, stress, and energy.
However, it’s not too late for you to learn from my less-than-wise decisions. Time and energy spent early on will pay dividends later on and in your goal to age well.
Thanks for reading Aging Well News! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.