POA is a Power of Attorney and I also suggest other papers like a Will and Medical Directive.
It’s not just about money. Whether you are young or not so much… need I go there? I am not so much, anymore. But I run into a lot of people who have put off doing important paperwork because of a variety of reasons:
- They don’t know where to start
- Who to ask
- How much it will cost
- How much time it will take
- Too young to need it
- Not ready to make some decisions on who to put in charge or who gets what
- Afraid if they share too much, someone will take over and tell them what to do
My personal wake up call:
My father-in-law had a stroke on his 50th birthday and lived 20 more years as a sweet but senile person. His wife took the lead in managing the family matters. At 60ish she suddenly developed brain tumors and died by 65. He died 2 years after. They had 2 married sons, my husband and his brother. The 4 of us kids had to make tough decisions for them when they became more feeble. We struggled because we were unable to know their wishes. My sister-in-law saw to their physical care, my brother-in-law paid their bills. We were long distance, so I volunteered to review their papers and read their insurance policies and other documents. we tried to visit and call often. My husband and his brother had to make some very hard decisions like putting Dad in a nursing home before Mom died. Dad was too sick even to attend the funeral, so they had to go tell him later. It was very traumatic.
After going through that sad time, I went to my still healthy parents and asked them what they wanted when they could no longer make their own decisions. My mom wanted to get her hair done weekly. She did not want to be a “dirty old person.” She had taken care of some old folks whose personal hygiene had declined. Dad wanted a place with good food. Neither wanted to be a burden to their kids or grand kids. So they in addition to sharing their thoughts about long-term care, they also pre-made their funeral arrangements. (This can be done at no cost by just writing it out.) They designated their powers of attorney as each other with me as alternate. They got their Wills and Medical Directives up to date leaving money not only to their 3 kids, but also to their grandchildren. (I had the privilege of honoring those bequests when Dad passed.) Mom even wrote out her funeral. She picked Bible verses and songs she liked. She sealed the envelope and showed Dad and me where to find it in her desk. Their passing was a lot easier because I knew what they really wanted. I got them into a good assisted living and later nursing home with fine dining and a hair dresser. They had a great social life there and made new friends as well as getting visits from old ones and family.
It did not cost a lot to get their papers up to date. If you want to do this economically then make your decisions before you see a legal professional, who will charge for phone and office time.
- Decide at home who you will put in charge, who will inherit and make a separate list of your special bequests. My mom put stickers on some items she wanted to go to certain people. My wooden rice bowl still has the sticker on the bottom with my name in her handwriting. How special!
- Make a list of all your assets: real estate, vehicles, retirement portfolios, bank accounts, any special valuables like jewelry or antiques. (get your valuables appraised if there are a lot). Put a contact and phone number by the banking info. Note any retirement direct deposits. Note life insurance policy info. Include your funeral info.
- Make a list of medical and legal professionals who help you with their contact info.
- Make a list of your current medications.
- Update your lists at least annually and share with the appropriate person.
Caviat: When my Mom died the cemetary director tried to up sell us a new name plate for her stone. He said the one my Dad purchased earlier was inferior. He wanted $1500 for the new one! Never offered a refund on the one Dad paid for in advance. I said “NO!”. The original one is still fine.
There are some unscruplous professionals (I will call them ambulance chasers, AC for short), who prey on families in trauma and overcharge or suggest unnecessary expensive things when in crisis. If decisions are made ahead, those AC’s have less chance of ripping off your or your loved ones.
Not sure where to start? Ring my bell!