As our loved ones age, ensuring their well-being becomes an increasingly important priority. Eventually, there comes a time when we need to step in to ensure they’re well taken care of, both medically and legally. However, this responsibility can be overwhelming and complicated for the sandwich generation – aptly named due to the commonplace phenomenon of caring for both the generation above and below them. The juggling act of raising one’s children while experiencing daily worry about aging parents or protecting an elderly loved one is a delicate and demanding role, but it’s one that many adults eventually find themselves in.
One of the most effective ways to protect an elderly loved one is to prepare and secure specific legal documents designed for our elderly loved ones’ care and protection. These documents provide a framework for medical decisions and end-of-life preferences and grant the authority needed to manage their financial affairs seamlessly. From healthcare proxies to durable powers of attorney, each plays a major role in ensuring their rights and wishes are respected. Read on to learn about five of the most important Florida legal documents to care for and protect your elderly loved one.
5 Florida Legal Documents Needed to Protect an Elderly Loved One
1. Health Care Proxy: Empowered Medical Decision-Making
Having a healthcare proxy is central to protecting the wishes and well-being of our aging relatives. The recently published book CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE: Juggling Your Elderly Parents’ Affairs While Raising Your Own Family covers this topic extensively. In Part Two, Barry D. Siegel, Esq., founder of the Siegel Law Group, stresses the importance of having a healthcare proxy, also known as a healthcare power of attorney:
“If your relative becomes incapacitated and they do not have a designated health care surrogate, someone will have to act as their healthcare proxy. The healthcare proxy is the person or persons authorized to make medical decisions on behalf of someone who cannot make these choices on their own.”
In other words, this legal document allows a designated person to step in to ensure that your loved one’s preferences regarding medical treatment are honored, even when they cannot express them directly.
2. Living Will: Preserving End-of-Life Wishes
A living will, an advanced directive, is often the perfect complement to a healthcare proxy. While a healthcare proxy appoints a trusted individual to make real-time medical decisions on behalf of an incapacitated person, a living will outline specific instructions regarding treatment if they become terminally ill or permanently unconscious.
Living will typically include the types of medical interventions the individual would like to receive or avoid, such as resuscitation, pain management, artificial life support, and organ donation. In this way, a living will work with a healthcare proxy, providing additional clarity and guidance for the proxy in making medical decisions.
3. Durable Power of Attorney: Managing Financial Affairs
A durable power of attorney is another critical document that families should put in place to protect the interests of their elders. This document empowers a designated agent to manage the financial affairs of an individual, known as the principal, in the event of incapacity. Unlike a standard power of attorney, which may become invalid if the principal becomes mentally or physically incapacitated, a durable power of attorney remains effective even under such circumstances. This document grants the agent a wide range of authority, including handling banking transactions, paying bills, managing investments, and making decisions related to property and assets.
4. Last Will and Testament: Ensuring a Smooth Estate Transition
A last will and testament is a foundational legal document that serves as a blueprint for distributing an individual’s assets and fulfilling their wishes after passing. This document outlines who will inherit specific properties, financial holdings, and personal possessions and appoints an executor responsible for carrying out these instructions.
Despite the widespread belief in the importance of having a will, recent research shows that 68% of Americans do not possess one. As a result, these individuals risk subjecting their loved ones to significant legal complications after their passing. To preserve the dying wishes of your elderly loved one and ease the legal and emotional burdens for your family, encourage them to create a legally binding last will and testament.
5. Trusts: An Alternative Way to Secure Assets
Many opt for trusts over wills when helping their senior loved ones with estate planning. Trusts offer a distinct approach to asset management and inheritance planning compared to wills. Unlike wills, which only take effect after one’s passing and go through the probate process, trusts can become active during the grantor’s lifetime or upon specific triggering events, providing more immediate and seamless control over asset distribution.
This characteristic can be especially advantageous for those seeking to manage assets for an elderly loved one’s long-term care needs. Additionally, trusts offer a higher degree of privacy as they do not become part of the public record. For more information about the pros and cons of creating trusts versus wills and the distinction between revocable and irrevocable trusts, check out the chapter on estate planning in CAUGHT IN THE MIDDLE by Barry D. Siegel, Esq.
Call THE South Florida Elder Law Attorneys – The Siegel Law Group
Watching our parents age can bring forth a mix of emotions and responsibilities. For the sandwich generation, the implications are even more pressing, as these adults are tasked with managing the care of their parents and their children. In a phase of life where it feels like everyone is demanding your time and energy, remember that you don’t have to face this struggle alone. At the Siegel Law Group, our compassionate South Florida Elder Law Attorneys are here to put your mind at ease and work closely with you to stabilize your family’s future.
Call our office at 561-576-6206 for a complimentary consultation, or submit our online contact form to schedule a free consultation today. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact us.