Importance Of Legal Decisions For Your Parents In Assisted Living

by Debbie Nguyen on August 15, 2013

There are many reasons that you may help you parents enter into an assisted living facility. They may be perfectly healthy but wish to live in a place that offers added protection in the event that their health declines. They may also need to live in this type of facility to ensure that they are receiving proper medical care at all times. Many assisted living communities now offer amenities that make a senior’s life more enjoyable. Being in an assisted living facility means there are no longer chores that your parents must take care of to upkeep their own home. There is also a big social aspect that is inviting to many seniors.

Whatever the reason is for your parents’ move into an assisted living facility, it is important that you make sure that they are legally protected. It is important that they understand what legal documents they need to have in place. Be present when they consult with an attorney. You need to understand the legalese too. And make sure they are cognizant of what they are putting into place.

What Type Of Legal Protections Do Your Parents Need?

Your parents may be cognitively perfect today, but there is no guarantee for tomorrow. Any type of medical event can take place that leaves them unable to make decisions for themselves. While this is true for any person, it is especially true for the elderly who are more susceptible to strokes or dementia.

When your parents enter an assisted living facility, such as Dogwood Forest in Atlanta, you should make sure that the following legal documents are in place for their, and your, benefit:

  • Will. While no one likes to think of their eventual passing, it is something that must be addressed. Make sure that your parents have their wills in order. Make sure your parents understand the difference between a will and a living trust. If you have siblings, it is a good idea to discuss the terms of the will with your parents and siblings as a family. There is no worse stress than for parents to see the fighting between siblings regarding their assets. If your parents die without a will, the state can take control of their assets. When this occurs, the state is usually the one who benefits most as a beneficiary.
  • Living Trust. A living trust is similar to a will in that it gives someone control over your parent’s property and assets, but it is during the time they are still alive.
  • Power Of Attorney For Healthcare. This has many different names, depending on the state in which you live. What this does is give the child the authority to make healthcare decisions for their parent if the parent becomes incapable. If they do not have this in place and something should happen, the doctors and/or state will make healthcare decisions for them. Your parents should also specify advance directives, which dictate how they want their healthcare to be carried out, if at a later time, they cannot make these decisions. They should clarify, in writing, what they wish to be done if they are ever placed on life support. They should specify if they do or do not want to be resuscitated. They should make known in a living will their wishes as to how they want to reach the end of their lives. This is especially important if one of your parents is terminally ill.
  • Power Of Attorney For Finances. If for some reason your parents become unable to make decisions on their own, this would let you or a sibling make financial and legal decisions on their behalf. Again, without this in place, the facility or the state will assume this responsibility.
  • Important Papers Secured. You want to make sure that all of your parents’ important documents, such as life insurance policies, investments, banking information, bills, deeds and so forth are easily accessible. Contrary to popular belief, a safe deposit box is not necessarily the best place to keep these items. If you do not have permission to access the box, it could take up to a year after they have passed away to access this box though a court order.

It is never an easy process to have your parents move into an assisted care facility. However, it can be a much easier process for all those involved if all the legal paperwork is in place before their move.

Debbie Nguyen is a blogger and designer in the Atlanta area. Dogwood Forest is an assisted living facility near her home.


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