Basic Estate Planning Checklist for Aging Parents

I have previously posted previously pretty much on all of these items separately, but I thought I'd commit to the "checklist-mania" and add my own checklist.  For individuals that are helping out with an aging family member, this can be a quick guide to get you started.  (If you are taking advantage of an aging family member, then you need to get a conscience and turn yourself into the authorities.) While this list can be used for pretty much anybody, young or old, this can be a helpful guide for those assisting a parent/grandparent with planning.

  1. Power of Attorney (health) - This document enables health care decisions, such as medicine, doctor, facility, therapy, etc. to be made by a selected individual.  While more than one can be named, it is typically preferred to name one responsible individual.
  2. Power of Attorney (financial) - This document provides for someone to handle financial matters.  Iowa's recently updated statute provides significant changes to this position.  This can be the same person under health powers, but need not be the same person.  Again, normally better to just have one individual in this position.
  3. Living Will - This document is one that will provide final instructions should the individuals life deteriorate to the point where their existence is continuing only with the help of life-support.  (Not a DNR.  Different topic for another day.)
  4. Declaration for Final Disposition of Remains - Following someone's death, several "permanent" decisions are made as to who will make decisions on the disposition (burial, cremation, other) of the body.  Nothing uglier than fights at the funeral home when it should be a time of memories.
  5. Last Will and Testament/Revocable Trust - The Will only has the authority after death and after it has been admitted to probate.  It will provide directions over are the assets are distributed and who is in charge.  A revocable trust is similar to a Will, but handles things a little differently.
  6. Beneficiary Review - Frequently overlooked (or unable to locate) are beneficiary designations of retirement accounts, life insurance, annuities or other assets.  Hey, even I admit that I myself have neglected to keep up on all of my beneficiary designations.   Remember, that these beneficiary designations take priority over the provisions in a will or trust (unless they are the beneficiary listed). 
  7. Ownership Review - Also frequently overlooked, a common "culprit" are bank accounts where someone is intended to be listed as simply able to sign checks, but is listed as a joint owner instead.  
While not exhaustive and certainly not to be considered legal advice, hopefully this will allow you to be prepared to review and discuss the basic provisions.


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