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Legal and Financial Matters

Helping Parents Address Legal Issues

Protecting your loved ones documents and information

Article Highlights

  • Do your research
  • Finding a good lawyer
  • Drafting advance directives

Getting your parents started down the path of legal protection can be tricky. There’s a lot you can do to aid them in this very important task.

Getting Started

Do Your Homework Discuss with your parents the legal protections outlined in "Legal Protections Your Loved One Should Know About". Find out if they already have or want to have these documents. If they’re unfamiliar with the products, gather more information to help them decide.

Find a Good Lawyer If your parents don’t have a lawyer who can handle estate planning and elder-law issues, ask friends and family for recommendations and line one up. Be sure, however, to shop around. Fees among lawyers vary greatly, so do your research. You may also be able to find free or reduced-cost legal help, which may be available through a legal services agency, AARP Legal Services Network, bar associations or other groups. Ask if the attorney provides a free initial consultation. Ask about his or her experience in the issues you care about. Get references and find out who in the firm will work on the documents. Lastly, ask when they can meet with your parents and get a firm estimate on what the fees and expenses will total.

Discuss Financial Protection Measures Know where to find your parents’ personal and financial documents in an emergency. Ask your parents if they want companies to notify you if they miss bill payments. Suggest parents switch to direct deposit for Social Security and other benefit checks.

Work Through Sensitive Issues Help your parents with difficult decisions, such as who they want to make financial or medical decisions on their behalf. Discuss what they want done with their property after their death and whether there are any life-sustaining treatments they would want if they reach a terminal condition. Also find out if they have any preferences about funeral and burial arrangements.

Draft Advance Directives You can help your parents increase the likelihood that their advance directives will be followed by having discussions about their health care preferences. Encourage them to talk with their doctor before and after an advance directive is created to ensure he or she feels comfortable carrying out the terms. Make sure the documents follow the legal format for your parent’s state, as each state has its own. Make sure everyone who needs to know about the documents — family, friends, spiritual advisors, nursing homes, hospitals — is aware of them. Make copies of the documents for all doctors and agents and keep a few copies on file.

Putting these measures in place will aid you and your loved ones during uncertain times.

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