With October being National Financial Planning Month, we thought it would be appropriate to discuss the key documents every senior should have as they navigate through home health care and hospice in Santa Clara and elsewhere. In 2016, for the first time in history, the country’s senior population surpassed 50 million, with that number expected to climb to 83 million by 2050. This is due in large part to the post-World War II baby boom and current longer life expectancy, leading to an unprecedented surge in the aging population over the next 30 years, says Forbes. As a result, there will naturally be more Medicare beneficiaries predicated by higher Medicare spending; however, fewer citizens will pay into the system.

This shifting population dynamic presents challenges for government and financial systems to be sure, but also for seniors themselves. Being armed with the knowledge to protect your assets or those of your aging parent is critical. Everyone knows they have to plan for every major stage in life, from college to retirement. No one wants to think about planning for their healthcare needs at the end of life. Yet it’s the most overlooked savings goal in the country, leaving millions of Americans without means to pay for quality home health care and ultimately, hospice.

Aside from money, though, there are important financial documents every senior should have in their possession. Hiring an attorney to help with these complex matters may be a wise idea. Having these essential legal documents will protect you and your family, ensuring your wishes regarding your estate are legal and clear, says The Huffington Post. They will also minimize conflicts and confusion with both your family and your health care providers. Let’s go over these five crucial documents.

1. Will

This legally-binding document will outline exactly how you would like your property and other assets to be distributed upon your death. You can also designate an executor to make sure these wishes are carried out in the way you planned. Also, you can use this document to name guardians in the event you have minor or dependent children.

So many people put off writing a will because it seems morbid to plan out what will happen when they die. However, it’s far more scary to leave all this up to chance when you do pass on. Your children and any heirs will be left in confusion as to what to do, which can lead to conflict on a large scale. Prevent family legal battles and have a will in place.

2. Revocable Living Trust

If you own real estate or have large asset amounts, you can create a “revocable living trust,” which works very much like a will but cuts through the time and expense of probate in an effort to protect your estate’s privacy. The term “revocable” means the trust can be changed or undone at any time, giving the individual control over how to manage their assets in their own name for as long as they can, says MoneyWise. A “successor trustee” is also named in the document who will assume management of the assets in the event you lose your mental faculties or die.

3. Durable Power of Attorney for Finances

With this document, you are able to designate a trusted person to make critical financial, tax and legal decisions on your behalf should you become incapacitated and can no longer make sound decisions on your own. As a child of an aging parent, you can use this durable power of attorney in order to gain access to their financial records and seamlessly pay bills and taxes, continue to manage their investments, purchase insurance, pay for medical care or even liquidate assets.

4 and 5. Advanced Health Care Directive

This is actually comprised of two documents that outline your wishes in terms of your end-of-life medical treatment. They act as a living will which advises your physician about the level of care you want in the event you can’t make your own decisions. The health care power of attorney will name an authorized person to make medical decisions on your behalf if you cannot. A medical directive, or living will, is a legally binding document that addresses issues like resuscitation, invasive life-sustaining measures, antibiotics, pain relief and more.

Having all of the above documents in place can reduce the stress level of your family so they can become familiar far in advance of the types of decisions they will be faced with on short notice once you pass on.

Contact Pathways Home Health and Hospice

Get in touch with Pathways Home Health and Hospice by contacting us at 888-755-7855. Our hospice care team can work with you in providing resources for the above documents, thanks to our Advanced Directives services that can help you make the right medical decisions for your loved one’s care.