When asked for their best piece of advice, Aging Life Care Professionals are quick to respond: “Be prepared,” “Make a plan for aging,” “Don’t wait for a crisis to strike,” “Build a team of trusted friends, family and professionals.” So when you head into retirement, be sure to take the necessary steps to plan for the next phase of life. Thanks to our guest Aging Life Care™ Month blogger for sharing this useful ten-step checklist to help you prepare and plan for aging. To find a professional to help pull together or manage your Aging Life Care plan, visit the Aging Life Care Association’s “Find an Aging Life Care Expert” search at aginglifecare.org.
By Carolyn L. Rosenblatt, RN, Elder law attorney, AgingParents.com – National Aging Life Care™ Month Guest Blogger
Let’s face it: no one likes to think of one’s self as “old”. We have an unfortunately negative culture about aging itself and this can cause a lot of problems. But some of these issues can be resolved by taking a few smart steps at age 65 or sooner. I see unnecessary heartache, grief and expense caused by forgetting to do these things or just never considering them. Here is a ten-step checklist to follow for every smart retiree. If you are an Aging Life Care Manager®, you can remind your clients and help them to carry out these basic essentials we all need. And be sure to do it for yourself too!
First, identify a trusted person or persons you want to use as the receiver of all of your essential information and documents. We’ll call this person the Information Keeper. This may be an adult child, a long time friend, or someone who can be counted on as absolutely trustworthy. Ask the Information Keeper if they’d like to have this assignment. Set a date with this person and sit down with them to go over this checklist.
Have a signed and notarized durable power of attorney. Any competent estate planning attorney will include this in the estate plan documents. But it is surprising how many families don’t have one when they need it. If a generic form DPOA is all right it can be downloaded free from the internet in your state. You do not have to have a lawyer do it, but if you want a special form, you should have a lawyer do it for you.
Have a signed advanced healthcare directive Competent estate planning attorneys should also include this document in the estate plan but not all attorneys do so. The document can be gotten from the doctor’s office or free from the internet. Don’t leave your family in the lurch not knowing what you would want in the way of care or end of life wishes should you be unable to communicate at any time in the future. Yes, you have to think about end of life to fill it out but it’s only fair to make your own choices rather than push this off on anyone else.
Make a list of all bank accounts, passwords, hard drive backup location, investment records and financial planning. The professionals to contact should be on the list. And you should give permission in writing to each of them, such as accountant, estate planning lawyer, and financial advisor to communicate with your appointed trusted person.
List every insurance policy you have and provide the location of where it is stored. This includes life, disability, health, property, earthquake, and anything else you own that will protect your heirs. Millions of dollars of life insurance proceeds go uncollected each year because the beneficiaries do not know that the policies exist or that they are the beneficiaries.
Make a copy of the mortgage statement, any other loans, and debts, financial statements, and bank statement. These should be updated quarterly as these change as loans are paid or made and amounts available fluctuate. If you became suddenly incapacitated someone would need to step in and handle your affairs and pay bills. No one can do this unless they know some basic financial information.
Make a list of all physicians, care providers, and medications you take and give the list to the Information Keeper along with written permission for loved ones to speak with the doctors. What if you got in an accident and got knocked out for awhile? If anyone wanted to know your medical status, and you have no Information Keeper, it could mean a great deal of danger for you. This one is simple and won’t take much time.
This might be the hardest one to do but do it anyway. No one gets out of here alive. Create or have on hand information about your wishes for burial or disposition of your remains. The Information Keeper should have that too.
Update your will and/or trust with a local attorney. Laws vary state to state and these need to be current in the state where you live now in retirement. If you’ve never gotten around to doing this make a date and see a lawyer. It’s not that expensive. It can prevent a lot of fighting and heartache after you’re gone.
Call a family meeting to discuss the items on this checklist. Transparency is critical to avoid conflicts down the road. Do you care about how your loved ones would manage if you couldn’t communicate or if you died unexpectedly? If you love them, sit down and talk it all over. Everyone should know who the Information Keeper is and what that person has on hand.
You can download a copy of this checklist by clicking here. Or you can hear a 5 minute verbal recap of the checklist there too.
Enjoy your retirement, but don’t get caught off-guard. An Aging Life Care Professional can assist with every step on this list. To find one near you, visit the Find an Aging Life Care Expert search at aginglifecare.org.
About the author: Carolyn Rosenblatt has over 45 years of experience in her combined professions of nursing and legal practice. Together with her husband, geriatric psychologist Dr. Mikol Davis, she founded AgingParents.com, a resource for families, and AgingInvestor.com offering educational training and products, both live and online, about aging issues for financial professionals. These focus on diminished capacity, elder abuse and financial decision-making. She is the author of The Family Guide to Aging Parents: Answers to Your Legal, Financial and Healthcare Questions. She also authored Working With Aging Clients: A Guide for Legal, Business and Financial Professionals published by the American Bar Association, and co-authored Succeed With Senior Clients: A Financial Advisor’s Guide to Best Practices.